The lovely ink-and-watercolor paintings cannot save this unfortunate effort with its missed opportunity for a wholly...

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DEAR SANTA, LOVE, RACHEL ROSENSTEIN

Jewish Rachel is enchanted by the holiday glitter of Christmas lights and decorations, as well as the anticipated visits from Santa Claus, but her family will have none of it.

Determined to take part, she writes a letter to Santa asking him to come down her chimney because she’s been “really good all year” and deems Santa “a fair person [who] will not mind that [she] is Jewish.” On Christmas Eve, Rachel secretly decorates her living room, leaves leftover latkes with chocolate chips hastily added, and an “I love you, Santa” note. She is angrily disappointed the next morning when there are no presents. In the Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, Rachel sees classmates who are Chinese and Indian and learns they also do not celebrate Christmas, which helps to soothe the sting. The authors’ attempt to address a child’s disgruntled frustration at not participating in what seems to her to be the greatest party of the year is poorly executed, however well-intended. Even as they do an adequate job of mentioning all the jovial celebrations Jewish families enjoy throughout the calendar year (“Being Jewish was fun most of the time”), they undercut Rachel’s eye-opening multicultural revelation with an unnecessary last scene: a parade of joyful children holding gifts passes Rachel, who thinks “she could still feel a tiny bit bad” about eschewing Christmas.

The lovely ink-and-watercolor paintings cannot save this unfortunate effort with its missed opportunity for a wholly positive outcome. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51061-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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