This sweet story is sadly underbaked.




When Santa loses his favorite cookbook, it looks like Christmas might be cancelled.

The story is premised on the conceit that Santa’s annual Christmas preparations include making Krinkle cookies (recipe included in backmatter) for everyone at the North Pole. Alas, his heirloom cookbook with the recipe is lost, and he’s worried “everyone will be disappointed.” In an abrupt cutaway to Boston, readers meet Abigail and William, visiting the library with their mother. Unbeknownst to the precocious gourmand Abigail, the cookbook she borrows is the one Santa is missing. How it got to Boston and onto the library’s shelves is unclear, but she makes this connection when watching a television broadcast that Santa and Mrs. Claus host annually, and he sadly bemoans the loss of his cookbook. With Christmas just two days away, Abigail’s family decides they can’t get him the recipe, but they can bake cookies and enlist others’ help. America’s Test Kitchen, whose offices are conveniently just down the street, helps out—both with discerning some artfully named ingredients and soliciting viewers to also make more cookies for Santa to enjoy and share. It’s a happy ending, but Tarkela’s illustrations here and elsewhere are stiff and redundant, undermining the book’s overall success. Characters’ irises are oversized, giving them a distinctly creepy look. Santa and Mrs. Claus present white while Abigail and William seem to be biracial, with an Asian mom and white dad.

This sweet story is sadly underbaked. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7771-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Not one to stop for despite the appeal of the cartoony art style.


An intrepid member of Santa’s team saves Christmas.

When weary elves get into a fight just before Christmas Eve, Comet the reindeer steps in to break up the fisticuffs and is injured. The rhyming text describes how the doctor tells him he needs to rest and can’t help pull Santa’s sleigh that night, and then it reads, “Comet watched Santa get ready. / (His spot had been filled by / a rookie named Freddy.)” The singsong cadence and goofy phrasing of these lines is representative of the text as a whole, which goes on to reveal that Santa forgets to bring his bag filled with toys on the journey. No one notices this oversight since Freddy keeps them all entertained with silly songs. Injured Comet decides he must deliver the toys himself, and a comical sequence shows him struggling to lift an enormous bag onto his shoulders before giving up. Then he reads a tear-jerker of a letter to Santa from a selfless child, which inspires him to persist. He flies around the world in search of this child’s home, delivering toys until he finally finds the house he’s searching for in Oahu. At this point Santa calls “full of thanks-yous and praise, / so quick-thinking Comet / mentioned getting a raise,” an attempt at wit that both undercuts the message of selflessness and aims over the heads of most child readers. Santa presents White, and his elf employees are diverse.

Not one to stop for despite the appeal of the cartoony art style. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4347-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Not necessarily just for Halloween; readers can appreciate it any time.


Which cottage would stand out more in a real estate ad: cute or…haunted?

Clarissa the sentient cottage dislikes cuteness; as a pink, adorable haven for flowers and squirrels, she’s bored. She yearns to be scary and haunted like her father, a gloomy castle, and her mother, a smelly, vermin-infested witch’s hut. Dad gladly donates clouds but tells Clarissa it’s OK to be herself. The clouds are a bust because they bring rain, which brings forth…a rainbow, plants, and birds. Mom supplies a reeking bottle whose contents allegedly repel living things. Clarissa opens it but…attracts playful dogs. Finally abandoning her desire for a ghostly boarder, Clarissa invites her animals to remain. At the end, a particular creature’s unexpected arrival—and its most uncharacteristic behavior—reveal Clarissa’s true nature: horrible and cute. And she’s just fine with that. This rhyming story is certainly an unusual take on the finding-oneself trope. The bouncy verses mostly read and scan well, include sophisticated vocabulary, and provide Clarissa with a spunky, appealing personality. Different typefaces represent the voices of Clarissa, each parent, and the narrator. The cheerful, lively illustrations are very colorful but a trifle twee; Clarissa and her parents are differentiated through vivid pinks, dreary shades, and anthropomorphic faces. Nature blossoms via bright depictions of flowers, trees, animals, and birds.

Not necessarily just for Halloween; readers can appreciate it any time. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-791-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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