A thoughtful story with a highly unusual take on Santa as a larger-than-life character, for environmentally minded...

ELLIOT'S ARCTIC SURPRISE

While enjoying a beach vacation with his parents, redheaded Elliot finds a bottle with a note inside from Santa asking for help from children to save the Arctic, Santa’s home at the North Pole, and the Christmas holiday.

Elliot asks his preoccupied parents for permission to go to the North Pole, and in fairy-tale fashion, a kindly sea captain with a sailboat appears out of nowhere to whisk Elliot on a longed-for adventure. When they arrive at the Arctic, they find a flotilla of colorful sailboats filled with ethnically diverse children. Led by Elliot, the children confront the men at the huge oil rig and convince then to stop drilling and go home. Elliot’s sea-captain friend then takes off his yellow rain slicker, revealing his true identity as Santa himself. The simple plot works as a sort of environmental fairy tale, and the concept of thousands of children solving a major world issue themselves is a delightful (although sadly improbable) one. Bold illustrations in acrylics and colored pencil are attention-grabbing, with bright colors and sweeping Arctic vistas. The controversial issue of oil drilling in the Arctic is a complex one, but this works as a first introduction for young children to a troubling problem. A closing note on environmental issues in the Arctic is included.

A thoughtful story with a highly unusual take on Santa as a larger-than-life character, for environmentally minded households. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-84780-741-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

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 good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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