Sure to be caught under many a tree.

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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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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All we want for Christmas is a more coherent story.

THE CHRISTMAS PRINCESS

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MARIAH

Singer Carey, whose “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is in near-constant rotation each holiday season, makes the leap to Christmas picture book with co-author Davis.

Little Mariah lives in a worn, shabby house in a wealthy neighborhood; though poor, she has a kind nature and musical talent—both of which ultimately save her. Taunted by a nasty brother-sister duo who enter her home uninvited, Little Mariah is distracted by snowfall and runs out into the nearby woods. The snow transforms into Snowflake Butterfly Fairies. Following these entrancing visions, she encounters a gang of bullies but, having tripped over a heart-shaped stone, she uses its magical properties for good in a convoluted series of events. The Butterfly Fairy Queen arrives and crowns Little Mariah the Christmas Princess for her “perfectly pure songs from the heart.” Back at Little Mariah’s house, which has been miraculously transformed, Little Mariah performs Carey’s uber-hit Christmas song. Overwritten, overwrought, overlong, and narrated in clunky verse, this holiday story, seemingly inspired by Carey’s early childhood and with “Little Match Girl” and “Cinderella” vibes, rambles while making its trite, albeit well-meaning, point. It will attract attention because of the star power of its co-author; note her empowering foreword. The colorful illustrations are cheery. Wide-eyed, blond-curled Mariah and the Fairy Queen have light-tan skin; Mariah’s mom and several other characters, including the bullying brother and sister, are pale-skinned; the fairies are diverse in skin tone. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

All we want for Christmas is a more coherent story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-83711-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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