A forgettable effort without the spark of excitement required to light up a Christmas Eve story.

ELF IN THE HOUSE

A little girl hears strange sounds on Christmas Eve, leading to encounters with a mouse, an elf, a reindeer, and Santa himself.

The unnamed girl seems isolated and lonely on Christmas Eve, creeping downstairs by herself. She hears a squeak and finds a smiling mouse, and they then hear a giggle and find an elf. The trio hears a “CLIP-CLOP!” and meets a red-nosed reindeer. They all move on to the Christmas tree, hearing a “Ho, Ho, HO!” and finding Santa. After sharing cookies with Santa, the girl and her new mouse friend settle down to wait for Christmas morning. The girl and the elf are white; Santa has light brown skin. The simple story tells of a “jolly Christmas Eve” with “joy gleaming bright,” but both the text and the illustrations fail to create a sense of anticipation or excitement. Computer-generated illustrations use a muted palette of green, lavender, and purple that conveys a subdued atmosphere rather than one of joyful celebration, and the cartoon-style characters lack a sense of motion. A few of the text blocks are set in black type on dark walls and are nearly unreadable. The title and cover are also misleading, as they imply the story is about a seemingly male elf, when it really is about a lonely little girl meeting new companions on Christmas Eve who cheer her up.

A forgettable effort without the spark of excitement required to light up a Christmas Eve story. (Picture book. 3-5)<

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8132-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

PERFECTLY NORMAN

From the Big Bright Feelings series

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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In the end too much is left unanswered, making this book pleasant but only passable

PIPPA'S PASSOVER PLATE

A mouse searches for and finally finds her missing Seder plate.

Pippa is an industrious house-cleaning mouse. And no wonder—Passover is starting this very evening. Dusting and sweeping finished, she turns her attention to setting the table as a pot of chicken stew bubbles away on the stovetop. But there is one very important object that is missing: the “special Seder plate.” Frantically, the mouse searches through boxes and cupboards and finally ventures into the yard. First she encounters a very large cat and asks if it has seen the plate. “No,” answers the cat and points her to a snake, who sends her to an owl, who directs her to Golda Fish, prettily swimming in the water. Success! Kirkfield’s little tale is written in rhyming couplets with much repetition of “QUIVER! QUAVER! SHIVER! SHAKE!” for emphasis with each interaction with a predator, so readers will be mightily puzzled when the formerly frightful critters join Pippa at the holiday table. Weber’s gouache, crayon, and collage illustrations are sweetly pretty. The final illustration features a Seder plate with transliterated Hebrew and an English translation of the components. Readers familiar with the holiday may find this mildly enjoyable, but others will likely want and need more information.

In the end too much is left unanswered, making this book pleasant but only passable . (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4162-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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