The pride of mastering skills through practice comes through in this affectionate holiday story.

DANCING DREIDELS

A little girl’s dreidel must learn how to spin properly in time for Hanukkah in this children’s picture book.

Rebecca, a little girl with dark hair and pale skin, decides that with Hanukkah coming up, she’ll practice spinning her four favorite dreidels, each named after one of the Hebrew letters painted on their four sides: Harry Hey, Neil Nun, Gail Gimmel, and Sheila Shin. The first three of these special dreidels can whirl a long time, but Sheila just falls over immediately. At night, the dreidels practice spinning, encouraging Sheila when she falls. When the others go to sleep, Sheila keeps practicing. Though Sheila is nervous, all four dreidels dance beautifully when the time comes. The story itself doesn’t give background for the holiday, but a final section—“Let’s Learn About Hanukkah”—provides information about its origin and customs, including how to play with dreidels. Sachs (Dear Dragon Master, 2013, etc.) mirrors a child’s excitement about an upcoming holiday in the dreidels’ anticipation, both pleased and nervous, over their magical dance performance. Children can sometimes feel as if they’re being put on show during big family gatherings, so they also can relate to Sheila’s nerves and to the reassurance that’s found in the other dreidels’ kindness, plus the family warmth centered on a delicious holiday meal. The full-page illustrations by Krebs (Me & Him, 2014, etc.) are charmingly colorful and expressive. 

The pride of mastering skills through practice comes through in this affectionate holiday story.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9796380-4-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Three Wishes Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2018

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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