Ninja Camp (Sue Fliess)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ninja Camp, written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Jen Taylor, an imagining of an outdoor ninja training camp for kids.

Ninja Camp has begun! You must learn speed, stealth, and strength. You must be fierce and fearless. And above all, you must protect the Shadow Blade, the camp’s prized sword-in-the-stone. Following a team of five young ninjas and their counselor, the reader gets an idea of their training – that is, until the rival camp is seen making off with the Shadow Blade! What are these brave young ninjas to do?

Oh, I wanted to like this more than I did. Fliess’s stories are typically fun to read, full of bouncy rhymes and creative plot lines – and in truth, that applies here. The text is fun to read, and the opening training montage is pretty standard for the “so you want to be a ninja” genre. The issues arise in the visuals, specifically some questionable choices that are made regarding be use of weapons and violence. Children are seen using actual weapons: throwing stars, swords, nunchucks, etc. In fact, during the climatic battle, the rival children face off using these weapons, as well as implied martial arts blows and kicks, ending in the central character pinning another children down, BY THE NECK, with her nunchucks. It’s unsettling, and not the best message to send kids about conflict resolution. Making it worse is something other reviewers have also pointed out: while the cast of children is commendably diverse in skintone and body type, it is the sole white child that is the most talented, the most brave, and the eventual savior of the day, ending the story atop a rock, holding the Shadow Blade (again, a REAL SWORD that was used in a fight against other children) aloft as the various children of color pay deference beneath her. It does not make for a comfortable visual. And while I acknowledge that any book about ninjas will probably include some reference to fighting, I can think of a few excellent ones that do not then devolve into armed child-on-child violence. Not for us.

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

Mrs. Claus Takes The Reins (Sue Fliess)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mrs. Claus Takes The Reins, written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mark Chambers, a cheerful girl-powered Christmas adventure.

Santa Claus has come down with a nasty cold! There’s no way he can fly around the world delivering presents tonight, so Christmas is cancelled! But that simply won’t do for Mrs. Claus – organizing the reindeer and elves, she volunteers to take up Santa’s position. She and the team load the sleigh, traverse the globe, and ensure smiling faces on Christmas morning, handling all sorts of problems that crop up with aplomb. Soon, the very last present is delivered, and Mrs. Claus is given a hero’s welcome for her return.

This was so much fun! In addition to a fast-paced, exciting story for little readers, there’s a wonderful girl-power subtext – no one questions if Mrs. Claus is up to the task, and she problem-solves with quick thinking and grace (“I may not have magic, but I’ve got a brain!”). The illustrations are colorful, lively, and appropriately festive, and the bouncy rhymes are a delight to read aloud. The length was great, and JJ loved it. A lovely holiday reminder that girls are capable and clever – including the one who happens to be married to Old Saint Nick. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Calling All Cars (Sue Fliess & Sarah Beise)

Hello, friends! Today’s review is Calling All Cars by Sue Fliess and Sarah Beise, a simple and colorful book of cars for little ones.

In rhyming text, the reader is introduced to a world of colorful cars, driven by a menagerie of colorful animal characters. Some cars are long, and some are wide. Some are old, some are new; some are big, and some are small. Some go fast, others go slow, some get stuck in traffic, and some even smash into each other for fun! There are all kinds of cars, but at the end of the day, all of them (even beloved toy cars) get tucked in for a good night’s sleep.

This one is a great basic-concept read for little bookworms, yet features some wonderfully energetic art that will make repeat readings lots of fun. The rhymes are simple, covering mostly opposites and various car- and road-related subjects. The illustrations are wonderful, packing in dozens of distinct species of animals in all manner of vehicles, which should make this a lot of fun to peruse for tiny car-lovers. The length is good, and JJ really enjoyed it, so we can definitely recommend this for any little ones who like animals, bright colors, and the things that go. Baby Bookworm approved!

A Fairy Friend (Sue Fliess)

Hello, friends! Today, JJ and I read A Fairy Friend, written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Claire Keane, a magical instructional book, told in rhyme, about the extraordinary world of fairies and how to make one your friend. By the end of the book, you will know where fairies can be found, how to build them a home, and what to do when your fairy needs to explore.

This was a beautiful little rhyme that really transports you to another world. The illustrations are absolutely enchanting (Claire Keane, a Disney visual artist, also drew one of the most beautiful books we’ve reviewed, Once Upon A Cloud), and if your little one loves fairies, this book will knock them out. The length is good for baby bookworms, too, and JJ really liked it. Baby Bookworm approved!