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

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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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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 rite of passage seen through the lens of a favorite literary pal.

LLAMA LLAMA LOOSE TOOTH DRAMA

From the Llama Llama series

Llama Llama loses a tooth for the first time.

All of the wiggling can make having a loose tooth fun, but there can be some worry, too. How will it fall out? There is a tooth fairy? What does she do? Llama Llama is distressed. “Is it fun? / Or is it scary? / Just who, exactly, / IS this Fairy?” Luckily, Mama is there to help. “The Fairy’s great. She’s kind and funny. / She takes your tooth / and leaves you money.” Llama Llama is on board with that! Appropriately, exactly how much money is never specified, but the tiny llama fairy is shown carrying a bag stuffed with bills. Hopefully she has many houses to visit. Gram and Grandpa have lots of ideas on how to get the tooth to fall out, but Llama’s tooth stays put until bedtime. Suddenly, Llama realizes his tooth is gone: “OH NO. / Where is that tooth? / Where did it GO?” Will the tooth fairy come if the tooth is lost? The comforting cadence of the rhymes paired with warm, textured hues soften all the drama. As in the other posthumously published Llama Llama books, Morrow’s textured paintings emulate Dewdney’s definitively lined renderings. The fluttering llama fairy, along with Llama’s stuffed llama, whose wide eyes notice all, will delight eagle-eyed readers. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.3-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 41.8% of actual size.)

A rite of passage seen through the lens of a favorite literary pal. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20603-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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