THIRD GRADE GHOULS

Remember when you tried to think of the perfect Halloween costume? This perennial question of the holiday is on everyone’s mind, but no one is more concerned with it than third-grader Gordie. He does not want to go as a ghost again. His friends try to help him. Lamont even volunteers his creative mother as a helper. After all, Lamont will wear a giant box and go as a breakfast table. His mom even saved a big box for Gordie—a box of toilet paper! The whole bus is laughing, and Gordie hastily brags to the bus bully that he will dress as something scary. To complicate his problem, he has volunteered to hold the hand of a first grader who is so afraid of costumes that he vomits when he sees a scary one. So, what to do? In the end, things work out for everyone and the annual Halloween parade goes off without a hitch. This is a universal, if predictable, story of the dramas that surround the choosing of Halloween costumes and the nervousness and social pressure surrounding elementary-school costume parades. Clear, large typeface, generous white space around text, and sweet occasional pencil sketches make this attractive to the early reader. Though the basic plot is uncomplicated, many extraneous classmates muddle the simplicity. For fans of Cam Jansen and the Boxcar Children. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-8234-1652-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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CHRISTMAS TAPESTRY

This longer Christmas story centers on an embroidered tapestry purchased to hang in a church for the Christmas Eve service. As with many of her works, Polacco (When Lightning Comes in a Jar, p. 665, etc.) sets her story in Michigan, this time in wintry Detroit. Young Jonathan resents his family’s recent move from Tennessee to where his minister father has been reassigned to renovate an old church and revive its congregation. Through a series of Dickensian trials and coincidences, the tapestry is purchased to cover some water damage to a church wall, and an elderly Jewish woman (and Holocaust survivor) whom the family has befriended recognizes the tapestry as the one she made in pre-WWII Germany for her wedding ceremony. In an ending worthy of O. Henry, the repairman who arrives on Christmas Eve to inspect the water damage turns out to be the woman’s long-lost husband (each thought the other had died in the Holocaust), and the devoted couple is reunited. Polacco succeeds as always with her watercolor-and-pencil illustrations in creating unique, expressive characters who seem to have real lives in their snowy city streets, cozy living rooms, and busy church. The gentle, reassuring message, suggested to Jonathan by his kindly father, is that “the universe unfolds as it should,” even when we don’t understand the pattern of the tapestry. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-23955-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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