For families interested in revisiting a favorite Christmas theme.

READ REVIEW

THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY

An Alpine village is the setting for a retelling of the story behind this Christmas carol.

As day breaks over the mountains, a homeless, orphan boy named Benjamin plays his drum outdoors. When travelers invite Benjamin to accompany them to honor a newborn king, he declines, having nothing to bring and ashamed of his shabby appearance. His friend Rachel convinces him to go along with her. She too is dressed in ragged clothes but tells him, “It does not matter….He will not look at our clothes, only into our hearts.” As the villagers gather by the stable, Benjamin plays his drum. Soft pastels create a beautiful atmosphere with light glittering from a star overhead and the golden glow of hearths below. Nonetheless, some of the charm of the carol is lost by the expansion of the lyrics into a full story with named characters. The song, with its soft, repetitive refrain and first-person perspective, leaves room for the imagination to fill in the emotional range of a magical experience. This feels a bit forced, especially with the addition of Rachel, who has her own gift as well as the volition that Benjamin lacks. Benjamin, Rachel, and the rest of the characters present white. Backmatter includes a brief biography of the Brothers Grimm although there’s no discernible attribution or connection to the song or story.

For families interested in revisiting a favorite Christmas theme. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4325-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This Mother’s Day tale is rather limited in its audience to those who can afford fancy brunch after their own religious...

THE BERENSTAIN BEARS MOTHER'S DAY BLESSINGS

From the Berenstain Bears series

The Berenstains’ son adds a Mother’s Day entry to the series, continuing the adventures of the Bear family with a religious focus.

Brother, Sister, and Honey want to do something special for Mama for Mother’s Day, and Papa helps them think of just the thing—brunch at the Bear Country Inn after church—and they can invite Grizzly Gran, too. On the ride to church, Mama points out all the ways other families are celebrating their own mothers even though these community helpers are working on the holiday: Officer Marguerite’s children bring her flowers as she directs traffic, and Mrs. Ben’s children are pitching in with farm chores. Indeed, the trip to church is eye-opening for the cubs, who never realized that some of their neighbors even had children. During the church service, Preacher Brown thanks God for the gift of mothers and quotes the Bible: “Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches.” While the illustrations are the same as ever (the smiling bears haven’t aged a bit!), the series seems to have moved away from addressing a variety of families.

This Mother’s Day tale is rather limited in its audience to those who can afford fancy brunch after their own religious services, contrary to its apparent message that being together is all that matters. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-310-74869-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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