THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A most unusual title page sets the magical tone for this distinctive interpretation of Moore’s classic Christmas poem. A full moon on the left-hand page encloses the author and illustrator information, with the volume’s title spelled out across the bottom of the spread by the twisted branches of snow-topped trees. Santa and his reindeer soar overhead all the way to the edge of the right-hand page, leading the reader right into the story. The narrator of this version is a wide-eyed young boy who peers out the window in amazement and then creeps down the stairs to meet St. Nicholas as he fills the stockings. Spirin’s sumptuous illustrations with touches of gold have a subtle glow provided by firelight or moonlight, with striking shadows courtesy of the full moon. A wordless spread in the center of the volume offers a dramatic pause with a full view of the sleigh and the reindeer in flight, golden sleigh bells glistening. The Victorian setting is complemented by an old-fashioned typeface and a tall, painted clock noting the midnight hour next to each verse of the poem. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7614-5298-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

HOW TO CATCH AN ELF

From the How to Catch… series

Wallace and Elkerton continue their series about catching elusive mythical creatures (How to Catch a Leprechaun, 2016, etc.) with this Christmas story about an elf who must avoid traps constructed by children before Santa’s annual visit.

The unnamed elf narrator is the sole helper traveling with Santa on his delivery rounds on Christmas Eve, with each house featuring a different type of trap for elves. The spunky elf avoids a mechanical “elf snatcher,” hidden in a plate of cookies, as well as simple traps made of tinsel, double-sided tape, and a cardboard box concealing a mean-looking cat. Another trap looks like a bomb hidden in a box of candy, and a complicated trap in a maze has an evil cowboy clown with a branding iron, leading to the elf’s cry, “Hey, you zapped my tushy!” The bomb trap and the branding iron seem to push the envelope of child-made inventions. The final trap is located in a family grocery store that’s booby-trapped with a “Dinner Cannon” shooting out food, including a final pizza that the elf and Santa share. The singsong, rhyming text has a forced cheeriness, full of golly-jolly-holly Christmas spirit and too many exclamation marks, as well as rhyming word pairs that miss the mark. (No, little elf-boy, “smarter” and “harder” do not rhyme.) Bold, busy illustrations in a cartoon style have a cheeky appeal with a focus on the freckle-faced white elf with auburn curls and a costume with a retro vibe. (Santa is also white.)

A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4631-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2016

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I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS

The words to a Christmas song from the 1950s serve as the text for this exploration of a most unusual Christmas gift. An unnamed little girl in pink pajamas is the first-person narrator, explaining in detail why she wants a hippopotamus as her present. Various views of the hippo are shown in a slightly confusing, nonlinear time sequence, but then why would time proceed in a straightforward fashion with a hippo in the house? Santa is shown pushing the hippo through the door, and the following pages show the little girl caring for her hippo, unwrapping it as a Christmas package (a different packaging treatment is shown on the cover), and then flying off with Santa as the hippo pulls the sleigh. Though the little girl and the words to the song are rather ordinary, the lively, lavender hippo in Whatley’s illustrations is a delightful creature, with a big, pink bow on its head and expressive, bulging eyes. (In fact, that hippo deserves a name and a story of its own.) The music and song lyrics are included in the final spread. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-052942-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005

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