Baby Shark! (Stevie Lewis)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Baby Shark!, illustrated by Stevie Lewis, a fun board book version of the viral mega-hit song.

At the aquarium, a mother and child enter an underwater viewing area – will they see a shark? Of course! In fact, they see a baby shark (doo doo do do do do). Naturally, the baby shark is then followed by Mama Shark, Daddy Shark, and so on, with another child joining in the fun each verse while displaying static versions of the well-known “Baby Shark” dance. When the hungry sharks look sufficiently menacing, the kids run back to their caregivers, all “safe at last”, then wave a friendly goodbye to the smiling sharks.

At this point, is any parent of a child under the age of ten NOT aware of this song? The viral ditty and accompanying video by Pinkfong was a smash hit, and while the modern nursery rhyme has certainly worn out its welcome to many adults, kids love its harmless lyrics and catchy beat. Devotees of the original may be slightly confused by design differences in the sharks (multicolored in the original video, they are all shades of purple and blue here) and a few changes in the lyrics to better suit the narrative, but this take will still please and makes for some cheerful sing-a-long fun for young readers. The illustrations do a good job of working in an inclusive cast of children as well, and the length is perfect for a quick read. JJ, like most preschoolers, is obsessed with Baby Shark, and I honestly had fun reading/singing this version with her (though not on repeat). Simple, cute, and fun, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Lost In The Library: A Story Of Patience & Fortitude (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lost In The Library: A Story Of Patience & Fortitude, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, a love letter to the New York Public Library through the eyes of two of its most endearing fixtures.

When Fortitude (one of the two iconic stone lions that greets visitors of the landmark library) notices that his partner Patience is missing, he sets off in search of the absent cat. Fortitude wanders through some of the library’s most notable features, such as Astor Hall and the Rose Reading Room, but cannot find his fellow lion anywhere. He worries about his companion, reflecting on their long history together and the wonderful stories that shy Patience tells him to pass the time. Fortitude asks some of the other pieces of art and sculpture if they have seen him, and is finally able to steer him the right way – the Children’s Center. There, Fortitude finds Patience surrounded by books, and realizes that Patience has been learning new stories to share with his brother. Returning to their plinths, Fortitude asks if, when no one’s around, they can again sneak in to read, together.

This is a very niche book, but a gorgeous and heartfelt one. Primarily, it’s about a single building, though a much beloved one. The story of friendship and love of reading is sweet, yet takes a backseat to the setting and characters, themselves part of the building. Even as a guide to the building itself, it has some limitation – as Funk notes in the afterward, the children’s department is set to be moved to another building in 2020. However, for the generations of children and adults (myself among them) who have visited this breathtaking place, the feeling the story evokes is pitch perfect. The magic of the NYPL Main Branch is undeniable, as are the authors and books slyly included in the narrative and art, and this story works best as a reflection of that: the magic, wonder, and imagination that great stories and great places can inspire. Warm, engaging illustrations breathe life into stone walls and statues, the length is fine, and JJ loved it. A sweet, personal ode to national treasure, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

Prince & Knight (Daniel Haack)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Prince & Knight, written by Daniel Haack and illustrated Stevie Lewis, a fairy tale with a refreshingly inclusive love story.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful kingdom, where lived and handsome and sincere prince. The prince was ready to take over rule for the King and Queen, but he would need to be married first. The royal family leaves on a journey to find a princess for a bride. But while he meets many lovely princesses, none of them ignite that special spark of love for the prince. Then the royals receive word: in their absence, a fearsome dragon has lain waste to the land! The prince bravely races home to defend his kingdom and, upon facing the fearsome beast, finds he is not alone. An armor-clad knight has arrived as well, and the two work together to subdue the dragon, saving each other’s lives in the process. Taking a moment to exchange thanks, the knight removes his helmet, and the men feel an instantaneous bond – the spark they had been seeking.

YES, we are starting this year off RIGHT! I had an idea of what the plot of this story would be based on the cover, but the delivery was just splendid. From the thrilling action sequence (which nimbly sidesteps any violence or death, rest assured), the cheerful and sweet rhyming text, and of course, the heartwarming love story. The specific focus on marriage (the prince’s parents feel that he needs a spouse to rule) rather than on yearning for love is not ideal, but easily forgotten when the two leads find that love at first sight. The illustrations are phenomenal, evoking classic fairytale themes through a modern, almost cinematic lens. The length was great, and JJ and I both loved it. A marvelous love story for all little ones to enjoy, and especially for little boys who dream of their own handsome prince someday. Baby Bookworm approved!