THE LITTLE FIR TREE

A Christmas story about gratitude, adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

The eponymous little fir tree is discontented in the forest, especially when it sees other, bigger trees being cut down to build cabins and ships. People and animals alike praise the tree for its beauty, but it remains dissatisfied. Then the tree is cut down, and it goes to a home where people (all of whom appear white in the naïve illustrations) decorate it for Christmas. Here, the tree feels proud and wishes the woodland animals could see it. It also enjoys listening to a story—a moment that offers readers an intertextual reference to “The Snow Queen.” But when the decorations are removed, the fir tree doesn’t understand that it’ll be taken outside and put into a shed the next day. This fate brings sadness again, but the tree is eventually gladdened when children return it out-of-doors. Its limbs lacking the needles it once had, the tree glories in the fresh air and sunshine, seemingly happy to be outside. Where the original story ends dismally for the tree, Corr is kinder, building in a subtle circle-of-life arc. The final sentence notes that a squirrel’s larder, which presumably includes the fir tree’s cones, allows a new tree to grow. Throughout, opaque, daub-y paintings with a folk-art sensibility enliven the storytelling but do little to expand on the details of the text.

A Christmas tree-t. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-662-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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