An accessible religious fable accompanied by beautiful images of the natural world.

THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREE

A young, struggling tree learns his worth in this debut picture book.

A little tree named Twig is planted at a Southern farm. But he experiences anxiety because he’s different from other trees: “It’s a horrible thing not to feel good about yourself, and Twig definitely did not feel good about himself.” He’s small; he’s a different color; and even as he grows, no buyers ever purchase him to be their Christmas tree. But Mr. B, the farm’s owner, lavishes attention on Twig, telling the tree he saves the best for last. As Mr. B gets ready to go home to the One, the name the trees use for the creator who is celebrated at Christmas, he finally explains why Twig, now grown large, is special. He’s a blue spruce, and he’s not supposed to flourish in such a warm climate. But Mr. B told a friend the One could “make anything grow anywhere,” and Twig was his proof. After Mr. B’s death, the friend, now a believer, creates a park around Twig. Mr. B’s faith and the love he shows for his friend, through Twig, are sure to inspire Christian readers. Hoffman’s choice to narrate from the perspectives of the trees gives children an easy way to grasp the complex issue of religious belief. The lovely illustrations, featuring mostly pale-skinned humans along with a variety of trees and woodland creatures, by watercolor artist Sauber are worth framing.

An accessible religious fable accompanied by beautiful images of the natural world.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64543-381-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Mascot Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

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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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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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