Little Known Fact: lots of cheery text, exclamation marks and trendy electronic devices do not necessarily add up to a...


Santa’s head elf delivers an hour-by-hour report as he and two other male elves assist Santa with his Christmas Eve deliveries, as well as an emergency delivery on Christmas morning.

This 21st-century elf uses a smartphone, takes “elfies” and communicates with the North Pole with a phone headset. Santa needs his head elf to keep him on track to get through the night, so the elf urges him along with a text: “Time to fly, big guy!” Each page indicates the number of hours left until Christmas morning along with the sleigh’s current location, problems solved and a feature called “Little Known Facts.” For example, “Santa loves dogs and dogs love Santa.” The deliveries are completed by sunrise, but Santa and the elves find a stowaway dog named Tugboat hiding in the bottom of the toy bag, necessitating a return trip. The story tries hard to be humorous and up-to-the-minute, but it is neither new nor particularly funny. Cartoon-style illustrations are adequate but also rather pedestrian. Mrs. Claus is the only female character, holding a tray with hot chocolate and yelling at the menfolk to do the right thing. A 21st-century Mrs. Claus might grab some gal-pal elves and return that dog herself. Although the elves are all male, the general elf crew is multiethnic, and the head, protagonist elf has warm, brown skin and straight black hair—perhaps he's Asian or Latino. In any event, he and his brethren represent a step forward for ethnic elf diversity.

Little Known Fact: lots of cheery text, exclamation marks and trendy electronic devices do not necessarily add up to a successful Christmas story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58536-910-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.


If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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