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

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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This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true.

KAFKA AND THE DOLL

An imagining of an unlikely real-life episode in the life of absurdist Franz Kafka.

Theule follows the outline of the account: When Kafka meets an unhappy girl in a Berlin park in 1923 and learns her doll is lost, Kafka writes a series of letters from Soupsy, the doll, to Irma, the girl. The real letters and the girl’s identity have been lost to history; the invented letters describe a dazzling variety of adventures for Soupsy. Unfortunately, as the letters increase in excitement, Kafka’s health declines (he would die of tuberculosis in June 1924), and he must find a way to end Soupsy’s adventures in a positive way. In an author’s note, readers learn that Kafka chose to write that Soupsy was getting married. Theule instead opts to send the doll on an Antarctic expedition. Irma gets the message that she can do anything, and the final image shows her riding a camel, a copy of Metamorphosis peeking from a satchel. While kids may not care about Kafka, the short relationship between the writer and the little girl will keep their interest. Realizing that an adult can care so much about a child met in the park is empowering. The stylized illustrations, especially those set in the chilly Berlin fall, resemble woodcuts with a German expressionist look. The doll’s adventures look a little sweeter, with more red and blue added to the brown palette of the German scenes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 23% of actual size.)

This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true. (biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11632-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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