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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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 cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.

HARDLY HAUNTED

What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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