Sure to be caught under many a tree.

READ REVIEW

THE GREAT SANTA STAKEOUT

Can Santa’s biggest fan snap the ultimate selfie?

Freddy Melcher (who has light skin and brown hair and eyes and whose surname is a clever variant of the Wise Man moniker, Melchior) could be Santa's biggest fan. All year long, he celebrates the jolly old elf and collects all things St. Nick. As Christmas Eve approaches, Freddy is determined to capture a photo “with Santa, fresh out of the chimney.” He devises a four-step plan involving a rooftop trap and goes to bed determined to stay awake and meet his idol—but, alas, sleep takes hold. A sudden “CRASH!” awakens Freddy, who sees “something big [roll] right off the roof.” Is Santa hurt? Poor Freddy dashes outside, fearing the worst, only to find a Santa lawn ornament headfirst in the snow, with a note attached reading, “NICE TRY, FREDDY! —SANTA.” Santat cleverly depicts this note viewed from Freddy’s perspective, which aligns readers with the protagonist and hides his reaction—for the moment. A page-turn reveals that Freddy feels “FANTASTIC,” because “while other kids nestled all snug in their beds, Freddy had played hide-and-seek with his hero!” Never mind a happy ending, this is a downright jolly one—merry, even. Santat’s multimedia art elevates Bird’s joyful, playful text to holiday picture-book excellence, his use of chiaroscuro especially masterful in the nighttime scenes.

Sure to be caught under many a tree. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16998-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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