An entertaining story with a plucky main character, a problem-solver rather than a thief.

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THE SANTA THIEF

A boy named Georgie secretly makes presents for his parents and surprises them on Christmas morning, when he receives a surprise gift himself.

The setting is rural Pennsylvania in 1929. Georgie, who looks about 10, has sent a letter to Santa asking for new ice skates, as his are too small, but Georgie’s dad tells him Santa might not be coming to their house that year. On Christmas Eve, Georgie takes his mother’s sewing kit and some of his father’s clothes to his room, where he stays up all night making presents and a Santa suit for himself. On Christmas morning he dresses as Santa and gives his mother a handmade pincushion and his father a key chain. They surprise Georgie with the skates he wanted, as a gift from them rather than Santa. This conclusion neatly sidesteps the issue of Georgie’s belief in Santa and whether Santa is real. Dark, rather depressing illustrations establish a moody atmosphere in the house, with effective characterization of Georgie as a child with both worries and determination. All the characters are white. The title is a misnomer, as Georgie doesn’t really steal anything but simply borrows his mother’s sewing kit and his father’s clothing. The cover illustration shows a sad Georgie holding Christmas tree decorations and wearing a Santa hat, implying he has stolen those decorations.

An entertaining story with a plucky main character, a problem-solver rather than a thief. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940716-86-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Just a bit of well-armed fun, more suitable formatwise for a gift than classroom or library shelves.

MAISY'S CASTLE

A relatively sturdy pullout castle with a die-cut drawbridge and a dragon in the cellar serves as playscape for punch-out figures of medieval Maisy and her friends.

The dramatic main event follows a perfunctory scenario in which Maisy welcomes “Sir Charley” the crocodile and others to a bit of archery practice, then dons armor to win a friendly joust “by one point.” Even toddlers-at-arms (with minimal assistance from a yeoparent) can follow the easy instructions to set up the castle and brace it. The card-stock punch-outs include four characters in period dress, two rideable destriers and, oddly, a cannon. These can be stored in an accompanying pocket when not in use—or even dispensed with entirely, as the castle is not only festooned with busy guards and other residents, but there is lots of (literal) monkey business going on. Along with sending Maisy further from her customary domestic settings than usual, this outing features a possibly discomfiting quantity of weaponry—none seen actually in use, but still adding an unusually martial note to a series that generally promotes more peaceful pursuits.

Just a bit of well-armed fun, more suitable formatwise for a gift than classroom or library shelves. (Novelty. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7438-0

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Good, quick-moving fun. Kids may marvel that communication existed before the telephone and Internet.

JACKRABBIT MCCABE AND THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH

This original tall tale is literally up to speed.

Jackrabbit McCabe is the fastest man in Windy Flats, a mid-19th-century town. With legs that are preternaturally long, Jackrabbit races everything, human, animal, and mechanical—and wins every time. His neighbors rely on him to deliver messages with lightning speed. Then fate, in the guise of a new invention called the telegraph, rushes in. Everyone in Windy Flats scoffs at the idea that “any newfangled contraption” is faster than their man, and he eagerly takes up the challenge to “race” against it. For kids it won’t be a foregone conclusion that the electrical device proves faster than any pair of human legs, yet for the first time, Jackrabbit must admit defeat. Happily, a logical ending is in store: our speedy hero models good sportsmanship by accepting loss gracefully, and he eagerly becomes the town’s telegraph operator and newspaper deliverer. Naturally, he fulfills his duties remarkably quickly. Readers will find that the story, written in folksy terms and rhythms, clips along at a fast pace, too, and the fittingly retro illustrations are filled with action, energy, and good humor. Occasional changes in typeface and size add to the excitement of the telling. The backmatter includes a helpful historical author’s note, a Morse code key, and a riddle in Morse code for readers to solve.

Good, quick-moving fun. Kids may marvel that communication existed before the telephone and Internet. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37843-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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