THE CHRISTMAS TREE WHO LOVED TRAINS

Reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Fir-Tree,” this story of friendship will warm children’s hearts.

A solitary pine tree on the outskirts of a tree farm enjoys her place near the tracks, where she can hear trains roar past.

A little boy who loves trains as much as she does comes with his father to choose a Christmas tree. There’s an instant connection between the boy and the personified (but not visibly anthropomorphized) tree, and she’s the one he chooses to take home. Lest a child be horrified at the thought of the father cutting down the tree, the illustrations make clear that it’s carefully dug up and roots swaddled in burlap for the trip. The boy is happy, but the tree, now trapped in the corner of a room, is sad that she can no longer hear the trains. When the boy sets up his new toy train around the tree, she’s happy once again. Eventually, the boy and his father take her back to her favorite spot by the tracks and replant her. This beautifully designed and illustrated book conveys the emotional import of moments big and small through a visual rhythm that intersperses double-page spreads with smaller, more intimate scenes in soft ovals set against white space. The title page echoes the cover while framing the publication information within the tracks. Soft reds and greens enhance the Christmas theme, while onomatopoeic display type propels the action. The boy and his family present white.

Reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Fir-Tree,” this story of friendship will warm children’s hearts. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-256168-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

As ephemeral as a valentine.

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

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