The Return of Teddy (Marcia Choo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Return of Teddy, written by Marcia Choo and illustrated by Xinyi Yao, a tale of toys, and friendship, lost and found.

Teddy is an old-fashioned toy bear, waiting on the shelves of a toy store for his adventure to begin. You see, Teddy is not simply a toy, he is a KNIGHT toy, a brave and fearless bear who is confident in his destiny of chivalrous service to his best friend and shelf-mate, Cinderella the doll. One day, Teddy hears a strange noise and, after calling out to Cinderella, is distraught to find that she has disappeared! Throwing himself from his shelf at her (assumed) dollnapper, he finds an equally puzzled cat who is on a mission of its own. Can the duo solve the mystery of the missing doll.. or will their quest lead them in an entirely unexpected direction?

A unique, layered tale with an unexpected message. An ode to lost toys based on a real-life experience of the author’s daughter, Choo weaves a singular tale with a daringly different plot. SPOILER: while Teddy and Cinderella are eventually reunited, it is by pure happenstance. What Teddy learns is that being a hero is often not done through daring deeds, but through expressing kindness and support when it is needed most. And while the conclusion of the story may be a little strange, given that Teddy replaces another lost toy (a resolution that may feel slightly unsatisfactory to younger readers without the author’s note to give it context), it is uplifting, if unexpected. Honestly, this reads a little bit more as a tale of a nostalgic relationship with a beloved toy than a storybook narrative for children, which isn’t necessarily bad, but does present some complexity in finding the right audience. Otherwise, the folk/anime-inspired artwork is gorgeous, rich and atmospheric, the length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I kind of loved it. This is a unique tale that may not appeal to all audiences, but for those who understand the deep connection between children and their toys, this is a treat. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey (Emily Winfield Martin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is a bedtime favorite in the Baby Bookworm household: Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin, a thoroughly gorgeous fairytale of the magical creatures that lead children to dreamland.

When the lights go out and little ones snuggle into their beds, the magic of the dream animals begins. Each child has their own special creature just for them who comes and gives them a ride to wherever their dreams take them. Perhaps a fox to carry them to an elfin hollow, or a tiger to ferry them to a circus of wonders. Faithfully transporting their charges, there’s a special animal for each dreamer; what will yours be, and where will it take you when you dream?

I absolutely ADORE this book. It has everything you could want in a bedtime book: beautiful, soothing yet fantastical illustrations, wonderfully graceful rhyming text, and a concept that is absolutely perfect for sparking the imagination of little ones. The idea that children’s beloved plush animals become the creatures that bring them to their dreams is fresh and fascinating, and perfect for creative little minds. The art is just superb, and fans of Martin’s work will be blown away by the ethereal landscapes of children’s nighttime wonderings. The length is perfect, and JJ adores this one. A phenomenal modern bedtime classic, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Twenty Yawns (Jane Smiley)

Hello, everyone! Today, we read Twenty Yawns, written by Jane Smiley and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. This is a sweet bedtime story about the sometimes-spooky time right before bed.

Lucy and her parents spend all day playing at the beach, and when they all get home, they’re all very tired. Lucy’s mom begins to read her a bedtime story, but falls asleep before it’s through. Lucy is left alone in the silvery time of early night, and feels a bit spooked. She goes to find her teddy bear, Molasses, and after finding her father asleep as well, sees that all her stuffed animal friends are feeling a bit lonely and unnerved as well. As she takes care of them, she finds the courage and comfort she needs by snuggling into bed with all her plushies until everyone is yawning and drifting off to sleep.

This was a cute book with a gentle sort of magic to it. It’s definitely a time of night that most remember from childhood: when everyone was asleep but you. The illustrations are adorable, and the titular twenty yawns are sprinkled throughout the book so that readers can find and count them. The length is fine for baby bookworms, and we enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!