Dolls and Trucks are for Everyone (Robb Pearlman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dolls and Trucks are for Everyone, written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban, a wonderful look at the limitless possibilities of nongendered play.

Toys are for everyone. Dolls and trucks, superhero capes and nurses’ scrubs, sewing machines and hockey sticks and mixing bowls and video games and unicorns (especially unicorns because, come on, UNICORNS). All toys, dress-up costumes, and ways of imagining and creating are for boys, girls, and anyone who wants to use their imagination and build their skills. So don’t let anyone tell you that something is only for boys or girls, because kindness and understanding is for everyone too, and in play, just as in life, our possibilities are limitless.

Fantastic. In this marvelous pseudo-sequel to the pair’s previous title, Pink is for Boys, Pearlman and Kaban deconstruct notions of gendered play in a way that wisely incorporates open-minded approaches to play and to gender itself. The simple, enthusiastic text is easy and fun to read, yet also subtly incorporates inclusion that goes beyond boys vs. girls, adding on gender-neutral terms like “everybody” and “anyone” to include readers who lie outside the gender binary. Kaban furthers this sense of intersectional inclusion with a cast of cheerful and affectionate kids with different skintones, hair types, abilities, gender presentation, and even body types (the latter is a rarity, even in books on diversity). The result is an affirming lesson in the possibilities of imaginative and creative play when arbitrary limitations are not placed on the children playing. The length is perfect for a storytime for even very young readers, and JJ and I both loved it. A perfect book to encourage kids to rethink stereotypes about playtime, and we highly 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.)

Duck & Penguin Do Not Like Sleepovers (Julia Woolf)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Duck & Penguin Do Not Like Sleepovers by Julia Woolf, the return to the reluctant playmates from Duck & Penguin Are Not Friends.

Bestest pals Betty and Maud are back… along with their beleaguered stuffies (Duck and Penguin, respectively). While Betty and Maud adore each other’s company, Duck and Penguin are no closer than they were in the first title – to be blunt, they despise one another. So as Betty and Maud prepare for a camping sleepover by setting up their tent, cozying into pajamas, and sipping fizzy sodas, Duck and Penguin are busy silently fighting, scowling, and sabotaging each other. Yet when the girls need to run inside for a potty break – leaving the toys behind – the noises and darkness of the night cause them to cuddle a little closer, despite their differences.

Silly fun. Once again, this unique tale of anti-friendship draws a great deal of comedy from the animosity between the titular characters. The matter-of-fact narration, infectiously joyful voices of the girls, and expressive illustrations of the toys work together perfectly to sell Duck and Penguin’s predicament, as well as the scary (but not too scary) nighttime elements that help bring them together – including a genuinely hilarious final spread. This one is less a lesson in unlikely friendship and more a straightforward comedy, and it works all the better for it; Duck and Penguin’s reconciliation is hinted at on the endpapers, but isn’t included in the narrative. The length is perfect, JJ was giggling all the way through, and this was just a lovely, entertaining read – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Duck & Penguin Are Not Friends (Julia Woolf)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Duck & Penguin Are Not Friends by Julia Woolf.

Betty and Maud are the best of friends. They love to do everything together: playing on the swings, painting, making sandcastles, baking, playing pretend. They love spending time together so much that they always bring along their favorite toys, Betty’s Duck and Maud’s Penguin, to enjoy the day with them. One problem though: Betty and Maud are having so much fun, they fail to notice that Duck and Penguin DESPISE each other. From nasty tricks to all-out brawling, the two toys couldn’t be having less fun being forced to spend time together. However, when the girls propose a game of baby dolls (with the miserable pets as the babies), the two might find something in common after all.

This one was interesting – it had a very unique take on friendship, perhaps even caregivers who try to force little ones to play together. Truth is, some people just don’t get along; they may find shared interests or opinions, but even people who love the same thing can have different personalities (ask anyone who has had an awkward hangout with their best friend and significant other). I liked this point, because there aren’t a lot of picture books that tackle it. However, this made the abrupt change of heart that the toys had after discovering their shared hatred of being “baby dolls” (another clever nod to caregivers who may force certain roles on their kiddos). The two go so quickly to happily playing together that I actually checked to make sure I hadn’t skipped a page. This also depicts them as having gotten over their literally violent distaste for each other, again, very quickly. While it’s a positive ending, it didn’t feel like it fit the previously established tone, and part of me wishes that the toys had used this bridge to simply agree to be civil, rather than become BFFs as well. After all, some people just don’t get along, but that’s OKAY. Still, the illustrations are very cute, especially the toy’s tattered, well-loved appearances, the length is great, and JJ enjoyed it fine. So while the ending may not have been to my taste, this is still a fun read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Jacob’s Toys (Claudia Woods)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jacob’s Toys by Claudia Woods, the tale of six cuddly toys going on a backyard adventure.

Jake decides that since he is a big boy now, he no longer needs his stuffed animals to play with. His mother agrees, promising to give the toys a wash then find them a new home. Put in the spin cycle then hung out to dry on a line, the six friends – Ted and Dupree, Tessa Turtle, Poncho and Mousy Dundee, and tiny reindeer Paul – contemplate their uncertain future. Just then, a huge storm kicks up, separating little Paul from the group. Unwilling to lose their friend, the group manages to follow Paul, kicking off a thrilling sequences of perils, cat chases, flying umbrellas and more. Where will their journey lead them? To a new home… or perhaps to a surprisingly familiar friend?

Very cute. Rhyming text leads the reader through a gentle yet engaging adventure story, featuring circumstances that are dire enough to be exciting without being truly scary. Quirky mixed-media illustrations are colorful and unique, and make each of the fluffy friends quite endearing. The ending is a bit abrupt, but a seek-and-find in the backmatter make rereading a treat. Even the rhyme scheme and repeating refrain are fun to read aloud, though American readers may puzzle at why “weather” and “umbrella” are paired as rhyming words (the book hails from Australia). The length was great, and JJ enjoyed it – overall, a fun romp. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Waiting (Kevin Henkes)


Hello, friends! I’m sorry we keep missing review days, but we’ll be making our big house move tomorrow, so hopefully once we get settled, our schedule will not be as spotty. For now, we’re here today with a review of Waiting by Kevin Henkes, an innocently sweet story of five friends and their life together.

There were five of them: the spotted owl, the pig with the umbrella, the bear with the kite, the puppy on the sled, and the bunny with stars. They were always together, and always waiting for something: the owl waited for the moon, the puppy for snow, and the bunny… well, he just liked to wait. When their favorite type of weather would blow, they were happy, and in between they would spend their days together, watching the small wonders of the world from their windowsill. Sometimes one would leave for a while, but they would always come back. And one day, when a cat with patches comes to stay, they find that their little makeshift family expands – by more than they think.

This is a strange yet wonderful book that takes a very small corner of the world, a child’s windowsill where a few of their toys are kept, and creates from it an entire world. The combination of the simple, straightforward text and Henke’s signature subtle illustrations brings to life a story that never leaves its unassuming location, yet still finds rich characters and a lovely story to tell. It’s a tale about appreciating the details, and taking a moment to stop and wait for the small wonders of life to unfold. It’s a good length, and JJ likes it a lot. A gentle, charming, and soothing story, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!