Stella, Star Explorer (Kelly Leigh Miller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stella, Star Explorer by Kelly Leigh Miller, a trip through our solar system that combines practical knowledge and new perspectives (as well as a few laughs) along the way.

Stella LOVES space. She dreams of exploring the cosmos, the galaxies, and of any planet in the universe… except, that is, for dirty, boring old Earth. Deciding she needs a change, Stella and her dog don their spacesuits, say goodbye to Stella’s parents, and blast off on an interplanetary adventure. It doesn’t take long before she makes a new friend: a green, seven-limbed fellow explorer named Io and his purple snake/cat pet Mimas. The pair have gotten lost looking for a very special planet, but Io cannot remember its name! Determined to help, Stella takes him on a tour of the solar system to help narrow the search – but is surprised to find that his destination is a familiar one!

A wonderful mix of fact and fun. Stella’s tour of the solar system does a great job of incorporating true factoids about each of the planets while also providing simple comedy that engages young readers. Best of all, the ending of the story really brings home a nice lesson on appreciating the things we have – especially our own fascinating, unique, and special planet – with a continued thirst for exploration and knowledge. Miller’s cartoonish illustrations are wonderful, with colorful and detailed settings and characters both land-based and intergalactic. Diverse representation is nicely integrated – Stella is coded as East Asian, her caregivers present as a queer, mixed-race family, and other background characters reflect a small variety of skintones, body types, and hair textures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the adorable artwork and uplifting story. Overall, this one is a treat, and we really enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Milo’s Moonlight Mission (Kathleen M. Blasi)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Milo’s Moonlight Mission, written by Kathleen M. Blasi and illustrated by Petronela Dostalova, a sweet story of mother, son, and space exploration.

For Milo’s crew of two – him as Captain and Mom as Second-in-Command – there are no space missions too daring or difficult. One afternoon, Captain Milo goes searching for his crew, only to find that she is busy with work. Being a good captain, Milo offers to help Mom with her work and with dinner, even though it means no space missions for today. While cleaning up, Milo overhears a news announcement about an early morning meteor storm. He tells his mom, who only replies that they should turn in for the night. Milo wonders if there’s anything else he can do to help, so that Mom will have time for the meteor storm – but little does he know, his faithful Second-in-Command already has a mission planned…

Very sweet. With a slice-of-life story and warm, tender illustrations, this book tells a simple and heartwarming tale of the bond between parent and child. Milo’s instinct to help him mother as much as possible is contextualized beautifully but the subtle visual indications that she is a single mother and Milo is an only child. Between this and the straightforward and affectionate text, readers get a wonderful sense of the bond between Mom and Milo, one that will feel familiar for any close parent-child pair, but especially for smaller single-parent families. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the art and space theming. Overall, a lovely tale, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Little Sleepy Solar System (Dr. John Hutton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Sleepy Solar System, written by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Doug Cenko, a delightful board book inspired by the author and illustrator’s previous work, Sleepy Solar System.

Time again to meet the eight (maybe nine?) planets of the solar system, this time as they go about their adorable, anthropomorphized day. Count one through nine as they introduce themselves by name, learn a few distinctive colors, and opposites like near/far, big/small, and cold/hot. Then as everyone tucks in for bed, wish your new planetary friends and their moons a sweet good night.

Thoroughly charming. From the unbelievably sweet artwork of the planets – each meant to emulate fabric with illustrated fibers and stitches, giving them an extra-cozy feel – to the simple rhyming text, this little celestial exploration is a treat. Pluto is an outlier (listed as number “9?” in the first spread), though it is not explained why; parents will have to fill in that bit of trivia. The length is brief, and perfect for the very littlest of bookworms, but JJ also enjoyed this sweet little romp. Overall, a fun planetary primer that young readers are sure to enjoy. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Go For The Moon: A Rocket, A Boy, and the First Moon Landing (Chris Gall)

Hello, friends! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, our book today is Go For The Moon: A Rocket, A Boy, and the First Moon Landing by Chris Gall.

Based on the author’s childhood memories, our story begins with a young bespectacled boy preparing for the event of the century: the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. He has his astronaut outfit, and has built models in every scale of the remarkable equipment that will be used in the real mission: a water rocket like the Saturn V, a cardboard command module clubhouse, miniatures of the astronauts and even of the LEM. Following along on his fuzzy tv, he re-enacts the mission as he watches it unfold – but when Neil Armstrong takes his historic first steps, silence falls and all eyes are glued to the television in wonder. Once the astronauts return safely to earth, the boy begins planning his next launch, a lifelong love of astronautics ignited.

A wonderful balance of education and nostalgia. As outlined in the afterward, Gall draws on his own memories of a childhood inspired by the Apollo missions and what they achieved, and this personal connection shows on every page. The mechanics of the moon launch are explained in a detailed yet accessible manner that shows a passion for the science, and the little boy’s perspective that weaves the story together captures both the excitement and awe of experiencing the landing live. Detailed drawings capture the spirit of both perfectly – a spread of the astronauts floating in their module, Buzz Aldrin breaking the fourth wall as he smirks at the reader is especially joyful. The length is best for older bookworms, but some of the technical jargon can be skimmed over for younger readers; JJ still appreciated the lovely illustrations, even if the tech was a little advanced for her right now. Overall, a lovely historical account of a seminal moment in human history, and Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Tiny Little Rocket (Richard Collingridge)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tiny Little Rocket by Richard Collingridge, a journey through the stars on a very special day.

Once a year, a special little rocket leaves earth and heads to the stars. The little pilot (that’s you!) guides the wee rocket, with its silver fins and golden door, past the sun, past meteors, past the asteroid belt of our solar system. There are a few moments of peril and excitement, but the little pilot fears not, deftly guiding the rocket through the black until it can complete its mission: unfurling a great banner that reads “Happy Birthday, Earth!”

Lovely, yet a bit underwhelming. Perhaps because of the grand, majestic fantasy style of Collingridge’s last two picture books (When It Snows and Lionheart, which are two of the most visually stunning picture books I’ve ever seen), I was expecting something similar as he headed for the cosmos. And while there are some spreads that capture his impeccable sense of scale and detail, much of them focus on the vast, black emptiness of space and the little rocket’s interior, lit by the buttons and control panels. The latter has it’s own visual interest – though obscuring the pilot’s face behind a highly-reflective helmet makes it difficult to connect with them – but the former, while scientifically fascinating, may not hold the interest of young bookworms. Similarly, the story is a little uneven, using a rhyme scheme that changes abruptly, making it a challenge to read aloud, and a plot that feels a little directionless. However, it should be noted that both lead to a final fold-out spread that is absolutely worth the price of admission. The length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the moments of onomatopoeia and the more colorful illustrations, so overall, we’re calling this one Baby Bookworm approved.