I Am So Brave!

July 21st, 2014 · Books

Image of the cover of I Am So Brave! featuring a little boy joyfully going down a slideReview By JESSICA ALMY

The author-illustrator team that brought us the adorable board book I Know A Lot! is back at it with the new title I Am So Brave!

Every time I look at this book (received as a review copy from the publisher), I find myself smiling. The bright colors, modern design, and adorable protagonist together create a book that feels both fresh and classic — and the little boy’s joy as he goes down the slide with his hands in the air is palpable!

This book would have been a great tool when my daughter was in preschool and struggled with shyness. Using the first person, the narrative briefly introduces five common fears: fear of dogs, fear of swimming, fear of the dark, fear of loud noises, and fear of saying goodbye. One by one, each fear is replaced with the joy that being brave brings. Overcoming the fear of big dogs allows the narrator to make new friends. Getting used to the dark allows him to admire the stars. And so on.

Simple and empowering, this new board book is a delight. It would be a perfect gift for second or third birthday!

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The Zoo Box

July 19th, 2014 · Books


Vegbooks readers will rejoice that The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke gets kids thinking about what it would mean to be on the other side of a zoo exhibit without being preachy or making conclusions on their behalf.

Zoo Box cover depicts children dressed as animals and real animals emerging from a boxSpoiler alert: I’ll detail the storyline here since the spoilers are useful to anyone searching for a book such as this but if you don’t want to have the story spoiled, it is certainly appropriate for veg families and has a wonderful artistic style along with a graphic novel style layout/narrative. Nothing is overly explained but the illustrations have subtle surprises that make re-reading a lot of fun.  My 3- and 5-year-old enjoyed it a lot!

Erika and Patrick’s parents are leaving for the evening and they are told that if they’ve gone to bed before their parents return they can go to the zoo the next day. The first thing the kids do is go up to the attic and play dress up. Erika is a tiger and Patrick is a bear as they play and chase and hit each other with pillows upstairs until they discover a zebra-print box labeled merely “do not open.” The pair open the hatbox and an ostrich leaps out. Despite this warning that the box is not what it seems, they peek in again only to be inundated with animals (a penguin, snake, and kangaroo to name a few). They hide in the closet but can’t resist checking out the animals in their house so when the animals appear to be leaving, the siblings follow the animals through the woods to what appears to be a zoo.

The zoo is not what Erika and Patrick expect, though, and the exhibits are of human homes, families, and sports. Not just any home is on display, it is Erika and Patrick’s. Before they can do much else (Patrick has obtained some popcorn to fully enjoy the zoo experience by this point), they are discovered by security and the alarm is raised about the humans’ escape. A friendly zebra gives the kids a red balloon and helps them escape home, pursued by a number of animals. The chase ends when the animals return to the hatbox just as mom and dad return home. Wasting no time, our protagonists get ready for bed and pretend to be asleep as their parents peer in and remark, “Looks like we’ll be going to the zoo tomorrow.”

The final panel is my favorite – both kids are awake and in their beds while the red balloon floats overhead. For my son, he loved the anthropomorphic zoo guests while my daughter and I talked about whether we thought the kids had really had their adventure or not. Subtly, though, is the idea that we wouldn’t like being in an exhibit. I know families are divided on the subject of zoos – we’ve taken our children to zoos that have research and conservation elements and feel comfortable with that choice but I know there are those that are staunchly against zoos of any kind. This book could go either way depending on the experiences you’ve had and in that sense it is very versatile.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review. It is being released in September 2014.

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The Girl and the Bicycle

July 3rd, 2014 · Books

Cover image of Girl and Bicycle, depicting a girl looking into a shop windowReview By HOMA WOODRUM

I love this book. We got it from the library and though it is wordless, it has a fantastic message and beautiful illustrations. I enjoyed Mark Pett’s last book, The Boy and the Airplane, but this book (Amazon affiliate link) prompted me to sit down and write a review for Vegbooks so I could share it with all of you.

A young girl and her brother (who is eating an ice cream cone) are walking on the street and she spies a beautiful green bicycle in a shop window. Rushing home, she scrapes together all the change she can (piggy bank, couch cushions, etc.), before moving on to opening a lemonade stand and selling old toys to raise money. She comes up with the idea to rake leaves and goes door to door asking neighbors if she can help with their yards.  Finally, an older woman takes her up on the offer.

Seasons change and the girl continues to help in the yard and house of the older woman. She dusts, shovels snow, gardens, and tidies. At last, she has saved enough for the bicycle and rushes to the store to claim her hard earned prize. What happens next is touching. My almost 4-year-old and almost 6-year-old loved the book, as did I.  Highly recommended.

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GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine

July 1st, 2014 · Books


There is a lot of buzz for GoldieBlox these days, mostly due to a great marketing campaign.  Their first commercial made a big splash, but their latest commercial is my favorite. Winner of the 2014 Toy of the Year, GoldieBlox is billed as an engineering toy for girls.  Here is a very interesting video of the founder of GoldieBlox talking about her inspiration for developing the toy.


My daughter received GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine and GoldieBlox and the Parade Float for her fifth birthday and she loves them both. Each comes with a build-along storybook to set up the first machine and inspirational charts in the back to encourage building more machines with the same materials. We were able to get through the first storybook and build the spinning machine, but my daughter was so excited to “engineer” on her own that we haven’t yet made it through building the parade float. What my daughter loves about the set is that it comes with several animals that are part of the story. She can “engineer” while playing with these animals and adding to the story line set up in the book, which really is her favorite way to play.

I highly recommend this set for any children in your life. It’s a great introduction to engineering concepts and its story line set up encourages continued building once the initial machine is built. It’s a great way to get children interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Also, it features a strong female character, which is highly lacking from STEM toys. I think this is a great toy for girls and boys as well.

There was a surprise in the book for GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine that made me like it even more. GoldieBlox says she wants to build a spinning machine for her dog Nacho who she rescued from the pound. It’s almost a throwaway line and is completely unnecessary for progressing the story. That one line has really resonated with my daughter, who keeps referring to the dog as “that rescued dog Nacho.” Things like having a girl lead a story book about engineering and having a rescued dog as a central character may seem like little things, but they have a big impact on children who are observing everything.

Recommended for ages 4-9.

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