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

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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Kid-friendly dark humor.

POULTRYGEIST

The chicken crosses the road…and arrives on the other side as a ghost.

The action kicks off before the title page when the chicken crossing the road winds up a splatter of feathers against the grille of a tractor trailer. When its ghost rises from the squished remains, it meets a host of other animal ghosts that encourage the new poultrygeist to start getting scary. They probably didn’t realize, however, that they’d be the ones to be frightened. Geron’s text is full of punny lines like “It’s time to get foul, fowl!” and “Ghosts of a feather haunt together!” Midway through, the poultrygeist turns to readers to make sure they’re not too scared. This is a nice touch, maintaining engagement while also giving more timid readers time to take a beat. Oswald’s illustrations display masterful use of color, with bright, ghostly animals against a dark, often all-black background, the dialogue shown in colors that correspond to the speakers. These ghosts do become scary but not enough to completely terrorize readers. Oswald’s skill is seen in full effect, as readers witness only the animal ghosts’ reactions to the poultrygeist’s scariest face, building suspense for the full reveal. This book is just right for kids easing into the slightly scary and macabre but who still want a safe and fun read.

Kid-friendly dark humor. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1050-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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