A lump of coal for this one.

THE THREE WISHES

A CHRISTMAS STORY

An unusual origin story for Santa Claus.

“Long, long ago in the very north a group of people lived with the reindeer.” Snow never states that the nomadic people in his story are Sami, but he does nothing to keep readers from making the association. The story relates how, one winter solstice, the main character, an unnamed boy, discovers the family’s precious reindeer are missing. He goes out into the snow to find them, following them into a cave that leads deep underground to a magical land of Summer. It’s guarded by three creatures who tell the boy he may never return to his home but who grant him three wishes. He asks for freedom, happiness, and time—experiencing them once each year when he is permitted to return to his family and their clan, who lie in suspended animation during his visit. Each year he leaves gifts, even decorating the inside of their lodge. One year, a guardian of Summer gives him a feather that will enable his reindeer to fly, and on another, anticipating his visit, his family leaves him a red suit trimmed in white. It’s all very clever, but in borrowing the traditional habits of the Sami and failing to clarify that his mythmaking is original, Snow risks clouding many readers’ understanding of a real, extant, and marginalized culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 68.6% of actual size.)

A lump of coal for this one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84365-386-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Pavilion Children's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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