Bring this one ho-ho-home.

READ REVIEW

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A visual treatment of an old poem that’s both nostalgic and fresh.

The cover art focuses on St. Nick driving his airborne sleigh against the full moon. Flying reindeer pulling the sleigh break the cover’s right edge, leading into the book. The illustrations’ soft style establishes an old-fashioned look. Long’s central artistic conceit is revealed at the bottom of the picture, where he establishes four settings that Santa visits: a cityscape, a farm, a trailer park, and a palm-tree–dotted neighborhood. It’s refreshing to see artistic acknowledgement of Christmastime outside of snowy, rural, Rockwellian settings, and the endpapers show characters to be as diverse as their homes: an interracial sibling pair decorates a tree; a child who appears Black drafts a letter to Santa; two brown-skinned children draw a large fireplace scene; and three White-appearing children, one using a wheelchair, make cookies. The “right jolly old elf” himself is decidedly elfin, with a diminutive stature, and presents White with a ruddy complexion. In keeping with other versions, parents are depicted as the “I” of the text, and Long maintains his commitment to inclusion and diversity in their characterization as he switches among settings to show them encountering Santa. These shifts don’t follow a rigid sequence, and seasonal details in décor (several crèche scenes, stockings, trees, and even a menorah on the mantelpiece in the evidently bicultural urban home) offer additional visual interest.

Bring this one ho-ho-home. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286946-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.

DON'T FORGET DEXTER!

A lost toy goes through an existential crisis.

The setup is on the copyright page. Amid the markers of a universally recognizable waiting room—fish tank, chairs against the wall, receptionist’s window, kids’ coloring table—is a tiny orange T. Rex with a dialogue balloon: “Hello?” A turn of the page brings Dexter T. Rexter into close view, and he explains his dilemma directly to readers. He and his best friend came for a checkup, but Jack’s disappeared. Maybe readers can help? But when Jack is still MIA, Dexter becomes disconsolate, believing his friend might have left him behind on purpose; maybe he likes another toy better? Dexter weighs his good qualities against those he lacks, and he comes up short. But when readers protest (indicated by a change in Dexter’s tone after the turn of the page), Dexter gains the determination he needs to make a plan. Unfortunately, though hilariously, his escape plan fails. But luckily, a just-as-upset black boy comes looking for Dexter, and the two are reunited. Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Readers will be reminded of both Knuffle Bunny and Scaredy Squirrel, but Dexter is a character all his own.

Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4727-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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