SANTA'S SECRET

Can an inquisitive child find the real Santa?

Rhyming, first-person text follows a child to the city with the family for some holiday fun. They appear white in the cartoon illustrations, with peachy skin and straight, auburn hair (though Grandma’s coif is gray and wavy). When Santa goes by during a parade, he has light-brown skin and round, gold-rimmed glasses. On the facing page, the narrator is surprised to see another Santa with lighter skin and square, black-framed glasses. Puzzled, the child narrates, “I demanded to know: ‘Who is the REAL one?!’ ” Grandma tells her, “It’s Santa’s secret, just as it should be,” but the child decides to investigate. Most of the sleuthing occurs while visiting Santa in a store where he’s taking photos with children. The determined kid whips out a notepad and grills him. This patient, white Santa looks different from the others, rather like he’s stepped out of “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Then, while getting hot cocoa in a coffee shop, the child spies another (white) Santa look-alike (minus the red suit). Before the narrator can ask anything, he says, “ ‘Reindeer like barley and berries to eat. / But carrots,’ he added ‘are their favorite treat.’ ” Then suddenly, he’s gone! This encounter somehow leaves the narrator satisfied with not knowing who the REAL Santa is, but the non-ending may leave readers cold.

Ho-ho-hum. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-53411-038-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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