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Sharing A Smile: Masks on Pages

Masks are a part of our world now. They’re a part of our children’s world too. With “Sharing A Smile” by Nicki Kramar and illustrations by Ashley Evans, masks can enter your library shelves, too.

ID: An image of the cover of the book “Sharing A Smile” placed on top of a pastel backdrop. The cover of the book is an illustration of a young Black girl on her grandfather’s shoulders. Both are wearing yellow masks.

“Sharing A Smile” follows Sophie and her Grandpa, presumably at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. Grandpa helps Sophie come to terms with feeling comfortable wearing a mask, and eventually the two set out to make cloth masks for their neighbors and friends.

This feels like a book with a job to do. It gets the job done. My toddler requests it. He’s only known a world where many or all adults are masked, mask is one of his first 50 words. When he request this book, he often says “mask, mask.”

I know there are more “mask” books out there, but this was the first addition to our shelves and I’d recommend it. Again, it’s a book with a job, and I think it’s important for children to see our realities reflected in their media, too.

The Verdict:

Grown Up Stars: 4/5

Kid Stars: 4/5


Mother Bruce: A Grumpy Delight

Ryan T. Higgins delivers an odd and adorable classic. You just have to read “Mother Bruce.”

ID: The cover of Ryan T. Higgins’ “Mother Goose” above a pastel background. The cover of the book is an illustration of a grumpy, black bear raising his unibrow while goslings climb on top of him.

Mother Bruce is an incredibly accessible picture book featuring Bruce, a grumpy bear who loves to cook. In this universe, Bruce is an incredible chef, but in his culinary pursuits, Bruce stumbles into the job of mothering newly hatched geese. It is just all so charming.

Reading this book as the adult, I felt my heart grow three sizes much like the Grinch himself. And for kids, the book has a lot to offer. The story is goofy, the illustrations are pure fun and Bruce’s unibrow is comic and expressive.

This book is honestly a delight. It was a gift to us and it’s a book I strongly recommend for gifting. There are more Mother Bruce books, and they’re definitely on our list.

The verdict:

Grown Up Stars: 5/5

Kid Stars: 5/5

You Are New: Short & Sweet

Lucy Knisley almost always delivers. And I only say almost because I haven’t read all of her books.

ID: The cover of “You Are New” by Lucy Knisley is placed on top of a pastel background. The cover has an illustration of six babies next to one another.

You Are New is a sweet picture book explaining babyhood and newness to any babies willing to listen. The book expands newness, offering assurance to babies and grown ups alike that change can always be found. The book rhymes and rhymes well, I say that as an adult especially tired of bad rhymes in picture books. And there just aren’t that many words, so it’s perfect for young readers who just mastered the page turning skill.

The art is colorful and the words are too. If you read this postpartum in a teary mood, the promise of being new again may very well get to you. 

The verdict:

Grown up stars: 5/5
Kid stars: 5/5

Age recommendation: 0-2 years

You’re Here For A Reason: A Just Okay Book

I started this project because for me, every children’s book isn’t 5/5. That said, when it comes to reviewing the books I don’t love, I’m a little anxious. Books are hard! Authors are people! And these books may mean the world to any given family, I just can’t know! But here we are. And y’all. I just can’t stick with this book.

ID: Image of the cover of the book “You’re Here For A Reason” by Nancy Tillman. The cover of the book is an illustration of an Asian child raising their arms while riding a giraffe.

You’re Here For a Reason is a board book by Nancy Tillman. It’s a celebration and validation of the reader. The sentiment is in the title. And truthfully, Tillman has some great books. But this one is too clunky. Board books are made to endure messy toddlers, but pages with too many words really aren’t. The rhymes make me cringe, the pacing isn’t right and usually when I read this book to Q I make up half the words.

That said, I read this book a lot! Q requests it! He hands it to me expectantly and clearly loves the illustrations. It’s just not my thing, and I’m here to rate the enjoyment of all readers, grown ups included. Anyway. Let’s pick another book, yeah?

The verdict:
Grown Up Stars: 2/5
Kid Stars: 5/5

Little Baby Bum: A Last & Awful Resort

I could write so much more about Little Baby Bum. It’s the strangest show and so remarkably unpleasant. And universally, babies love it.

ID: Image has the title screen from “Little Baby Bum” collaged on top of a pastel background.

Little Baby Bum is a whole assortment of kid media, but for now, we’ll stick to the Netflix shows. The shows are plotless, with a strange repeating cast of characters and a universe with ever changing rules. (Are buses sentient? Yes! Cars? No. Also, horrifically, sometimes poop is alive?!) Of course, the show isn’t made for adults. It’s not even really made for babies. Little Baby Bum is made for the impossible choice: would you rather hear your baby keep crying or slowly lose your mind listening to the worst songs ever? Sometimes, tragically, we choose the latter.

The show serves its purpose well. This winter our baby was under stimulated in our social isolation and winters weather and there were days when nothing else would work. But my lord, if you can pick anything else, I so strongly recommend that you do. 

I’ll be back to roast this sorry universe again, but for now, I’ll just gently urge you to avoid it at all costs.

The verdict:

Grown Up Stars: 0/5
Kid Stars: 5/5

Age recommendation: 0-18 months old, after that thankfully most children can enjoy literally any other program.

Kitten’s First Full Moon: Baby’s First Great Board Book

Kevin Henkes’ “Kitten’s First Full Moon” is about just that. We follow Kitten as she tries to reach the moon, a large distant vision she’s mistaken for a bowl of milk. This book should be a classic. There’s enough repetition for a sing-songy reading and enough variation that it doesn’t drive the grown-up readers mad. You can’t ask for much more, but this book has more.

This book is made for newborn baby eyes. It takes babies about 5 months to see color, so this book doesn’t have any. Instead the images are in black and white, with high contrast silhouettes that are easily recognizable.

ID: The cover of “Kitten’s First Full Moon” on top of a pastel backdrop. The cover of the book is a black and white illustration of a kitten in front of a full moon. There’s a Caldecott Medal.

I have such a soft spot for this book. In the early and panicked days of parenthood, this was the first book that got through to our otherwise unimpressed baby. I will forever see his newborn eyes following the pages. It was like magic, really.

Now that newborn is a toddler, but the repetition keeps his attention well. One of the repeated words is milk, which is a very important word for lots of babies and toddlers. When my mom reads this book to Q, he signs milk proudly when the word is read. Of course, this means both Q and Kitten have confused milk and the moon. But that’s alright. I trust it’s temporary.

The verdict:

Grown Up Stars: 5/5
Kid Stars: 5/5

Age recommendation: 0-3 years old