SNOWY RACE

A young child rides along in the snowplow to complete a very special errand.

Chronicling the breathless moment when a child will “finally get to help!” and be included in the adult world of work, a child protagonist (with car seat!) loads into Dad’s oversized plow truck to zoom off through a snowstorm. Conveyed in expressive couplets, the well-paced rhymes admirably evoke a sense of urgency about their trip and vividly paint a scene of the worsening wintry weather: “Frosty crystals chase and spin. / Snowplow shifts and tunnels in.” When the pair finally reaches their destination, readers see what made this particular journey so important—it’s Mom waiting for them at the train station! Swift, impressionistic sketches filled with soft pastel-hued washes create pastoral snowy scenes that contrast with the warmer, more saturated domestic scenes and with the thick-lined, cherry-red snowplow. Long, layered smears of white create a satisfying illusion of a blizzard, and Davenier utilizes various interesting perspectives, such as the view into the snowy woods from behind the windshield. Gender is handled refreshingly here, with Dad capably handling child care and chores, and while the flap copy refers to the child as female, the long-haired child appears in neutral primary colors, and bedroom decor includes trucks and elephants, with nary a pink toy in sight. All three family members have pale skin, Dad with brown hair and Mom and child with straight, black hair.

A winning winter race. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4141-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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