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Once the surprise is revealed, there’s not much excitement left.

How can you obey a rule when there’s a mystery to solve?

It’s Christmas Eve, and there is one very important rule that must be followed: You can’t peek at your presents until Mommy and Daddy are up and about. Three siblings get ready for a cozy night, but two of them hear a loud squeak coming from downstairs. When they go to investigate, the other one, the book’s narrator, suspects them of ulterior motives. To stop them from repeating the trick, the narrator makes a bed on an armchair at the base of the stairs. No matter how many times the two kids get sent back upstairs, the squeaking keeps happening. Finally, the narrator can’t deny the incessant sounds coming from below the Christmas tree. The children all discover what was making the noise just as their parents appear. This quick and simple tale, told mostly through dialogue among the kids, plays on sibling dynamics. The very straightforward premise provides little in the way of nuance and inventiveness, but younger readers may find it somewhat amusing. The lighthearted, cartoon style of the illustrations makes for some fun moments, especially through the sound-effect balloons. The narrator is light-skinned with reddish-orange hair, the other siblings are brown-skinned and dark-haired, one of the parents is light-skinned and blond, and the other parent is dark-haired and brown-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Once the surprise is revealed, there’s not much excitement left. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-328-80959-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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From the How To Catch… series

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series.

Another creature is on the loose.

The long-running series continues its successful formula with this Hallmark card of a book, which features bright illustrations and catchy rhymes. This time, the mythical creature the racially diverse children set out to catch is an absent mom who does it all (lists of descriptors include the words banker, caregiver, nurse, doctor, driver, chef, housekeeper, teacher, entertainer, playmate, laundry service, problem solver, handywoman, cleaner, and alarm clock) but doesn’t seem to have a job outside the home and is inexplicably a dinosaur. As the children prepare gifts and a meal for her, the text becomes an ode to the skills the Mamasaurus possesses (“Day or night she’s always there. / She meets every wish and need”) and values she instills (“Sometimes life can mean hard work,” “kindness matters,” and “what counts is doing your best”). This well-intentioned selection veers into cliche generously sprinkled with saccharine but manages to redeem itself with its appreciation for mothers and all that they may do. Endpapers include a “to” and “from” page framed in a heart, as well as a page where young gift givers or recipients can draw a picture of their Mamasaurus.

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781728274300

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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