This restrained, thoughtful story effectively captures some of the contradictory emotions a child may feel during the...

THE BEST PARTS OF CHRISTMAS

A boy named Fritz selects and decorates a Christmas tree in this quiet tale of enjoying the holiday as a family.

Fritz, his parents, and their dog drive out to the country to cut down a Christmas tree together, presumably for the first time, judging from the level of excitement in the text: “It’s a real tree!” Back home, Fritz is in charge of decorating the tree and soon discovers there aren’t enough ornaments for their huge tree. He “makes an amazing discovery—almost anything can be an ornament!” Fritz adds toys, drawings, and gingerbread cookies to the tree, making it his own creation. The family’s Christmas celebrations are centered on the tree, and Fritz is saddened when the holiday season is over and the dried-out tree must be taken away to be chipped. He overcomes his melancholy by keeping one small, bare branch for his bedside table, decorating it with a few special items. The understated text doesn’t point out that Fritz has learned how to keep the Christmas spirit alive, but that message is conveyed in a subtle and original way. Subdued ink-and-watercolor illustrations use cool tones and hazy backgrounds to create a quiet atmosphere with mysterious overtones. There’s a bittersweet sense that the magic of the Christmas season can’t last, underscored by the litter of dead needles left behind by the tree, but it is countered by Fritz’s ingenuity.

This restrained, thoughtful story effectively captures some of the contradictory emotions a child may feel during the Christmas season. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7556-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

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. 2, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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