The warm Christmas glow traditionally associated with this classic poem is completely missing in this unusual but ultimately...

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

The old-fashioned phrases of the classic Christmas poem are juxtaposed with edgy, contemporary illustrations.

An unusual double-page spread serving as the title page defines the scene and the artistic style with a night view of a suburban street. All the houses are dark and undecorated save for a few plain wreaths on front doors. But one house is decidedly different, decorated lavishly with lights, ornaments, inflatable figures, and a “Welcome Santa” sign atop the highest tree. Inside this house, over-the-top decorations also prevail, surrounding the family and the dog, cat, and mouse that appear throughout. The father wears old-fashioned, striped pajamas and a nightcap, and when Santa arrives, he is dressed in a traditional red suit. But the reindeer are dressed in odd costumes that don’t relate to anything else. The illustrations, presumably digitally composed, are unusual in style, with all the characters seemingly frozen in their tracks or even in midair. No motion is indicated at all, even for the reindeer in flight or for Santa sprawled on the hearth after his descent. This flat, static effect is emphasized by a cool palette of greens and blues that further subdues the tone. The overall effect makes characters seem like posed robots with no life to them at all.

The warm Christmas glow traditionally associated with this classic poem is completely missing in this unusual but ultimately unsuccessful interpretation. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-39112-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.

WE'RE GOING ON A GOON HUNT

Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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