Nutcracker aficionados can enjoy a background overture to a Christmas classic.

READ REVIEW

THE NUTCRACKER COMES TO AMERICA

HOW THREE BALLET-LOVING BROTHERS CREATED A HOLIDAY TRADITION

From Russia with battling mice and waltzing flowers.

In the early 20th century, three brothers from Utah caught dancing fever and went on to join the vaudeville circuit, performing all across America. One of the brothers went on to Portland, Oregon, to start a ballet school and, following the advice of a Russian émigré conductor, used music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker to choreograph dances for his students. Two of the three siblings found themselves in San Francisco in 1944 in search of a big-ticket number for the San Francisco Ballet. Everyone helped on the production, but it was not until 1949, with all three brothers working together, that The Nutcracker as an annual Christmas tradition began. Barton writes with an easygoing, folksy style with, perhaps, an overreliance on the phrase “the whole shebang.” Though Barton ably does here what he did for the inventor subjects of Sibert honoree The Day-Glo Brothers, illustrated by Tony Persiani (2009), balletomanes will regret that he doesn’t go into greater detail about the actual San Francisco Ballet production. Gendron’s oil paintings present scenes from the lives of the brothers and from the staging of the ballet. A swirling ribbon is an appropriate ongoing motif, but too often the dancers appear in stiff, cardboard poses.

Nutcracker aficionados can enjoy a background overture to a Christmas classic. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, timeline, summary, photographs, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2151-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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