Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks (Bonnie Tsui)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks, written by Bonnie Tsui and illustrated by Sophie Diao, an exhilarating look at the life of big wave surfer Sarah Gerhardt.

Two thousand miles and one week apart, a wave and a surfer both begin to move toward each other on a path of destiny. For the surfer – simply called Sarah – it feels like the wave she’s waited for all her life, ever since she was a very young girl learning to surf in California and Hawaii. Honing her skills, perfecting her timing, and learning how to handle her falls and hold her breath, Sarah finds that she has a passion for surfing “big waves” – swells that often crest at heights of fifty feet or more, and the most dangerous ones to surf. In addition to the challenges these big waves present, Sarah also has to fight the usual battles of a woman participating in a sport largely dominated by men: being forced to use ill-fitted equipment, dealing with prejudice, and being ostracized. Still, Sarah refuses to be held back, by man or by nature – after all, she was always destined to conquer the big waves.

Wonderful. This atmospheric and exciting tale sweeps readers along at a brisk pace, giving just enough backstory and context to leave readers feeling informed but never bogged-down. The tone is a perfect balance – relaxed at times, pulse-pounding at others – making the reader feel as though they are right out on the ocean with Sarah as she navigates the real and metaphoric waves of her sport. The artwork is sublime, creating beautiful sunlit seascapes and expressive characters, and even a few visual gimmicks that work surprisingly well, such as a size comparison between a big wave and an apartment building, or a fold-out page to illustrate the scale of Gerhardht conquering a wave at the famed Mavericks. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ adored the illustrations. This is a wonderfully inspiring story sure to excite young bookworms, 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.)

Dude! (Aaron Reynolds & Dan Santat)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dude!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat, a delightful look at the many emotions that the titular word can express.

Using only one word of dialogue, the story follows two friends – a beaver and a platypus – as they meet up at the beach for a day of surfing. They make for the waves, and are enjoying the day (with a few small hiccups) when a shark arrives and sends them scrambling… that is, until they realize that the shark was only trying to be friendly. The duo make amends with ice cream and a spare surfboard, and the three friends continue their fun – just look out for those rocks!

Tons of fun! From their greetings, to acknowledgement of some treacherous rocks, to expressions of excitement, apprehension, encouragement, and affection, the word “dude” is emphasized in different ways through context clues in the illustrations and the design of the text. It makes reading the story fairly easy for little bookworms, and provides excellent practice in connecting tone and story through the art, which is filled with Santat’s wonderful sense of action and silliness. The details are hilariously goofy (the shark having the empty leg flopping off one side of his swim trunks, for example), and the exuberant nature of the story makes for an entertaining read-aloud. JJ adored the art, and was joining in with her own “Duuuuude!” by the end. A funny, zany, and charming summertime read, 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.)