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IS IT TU B'SHEVAT YET?

This book is the rare one that might benefit from fewer bold choices of words.

Not all surprises are welcome.

Almost every line in this picture book includes an unexpected word or two. The first sentence begins: “When we look out the window / at trees dressed in browns.” In a prose story, that might have been a pleasant alternative to “leaves changing color” or “turning brown,” but it feels shoehorned into this book to rhyme with “and smile to imagine their leafy green gowns.” The rest of the poem is just as contrived. It’s possible that the (presumably North American) protagonists’ family members in Israel really would “send pictures of bees,” but it’s more likely the bees are there in order to rhyme with the “pink almond trees” on the next page. The book does, however, effectively sum up the theme of the Jewish holiday celebrating the oncoming spring: We love trees! It even works in a welcome, fitting environmental message (though “recycle, reduce, and reuse” is awkwardly rhymed with “help spread the news”). The pictures are charmingly old-fashioned. They come from the mid-20th-century M. Sasek school of illustration, with bright colors and no black outlines drawn around the characters. Most of the characters are white and part of the same family, but two darker-skinned friends of the children show up near the end of the book to help plant trees.

This book is the rare one that might benefit from fewer bold choices of words. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6333-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

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

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. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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HOW TO CATCH A DADDYSAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

This frenetic ode to fatherhood is predictable fare but may please series fans.

It’s time to look for the elusive Daddysaurus.

In this latest installment in the seemingly never-ending series about a group of diverse kids attempting to trap mythical creatures, the youngsters are now on the lookout for a big mauve dinosaur with an emblazoned D on his stomach and a superhero cape. The fast-moving Daddysaurus is always on the go; he will be difficult to catch. Armed with blueprints of possible ideas, the kids decide which traps to set. As in previous works, ones of the sticky variety seem popular. They cover barbells with fly paper (Daddysaurus like to exercise) and spread glue on the handle of a shovel (Daddysaurus also likes to garden). One clever trick involves tempting Daddysaurus with a drawing of a hole, taped to the wall, because he fixes everything that breaks. Daddysaurus is certainly engaged in the children’s lives, not a workaholic or absent, but he does fall into some standard tropes associated with fathers. The rhyming quatrains stumble at times but for the most part bounce along. Overall, though, text and art feel somewhat formulaic and likely will tempt only devotees of the series. The final page of the book (after Daddysaurus is caught with love) has a space for readers to write a note or draw a picture of their own Daddysaurus. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This frenetic ode to fatherhood is predictable fare but may please series fans. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-72826-618-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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