THE HARLEM NUTCRACKER

Forget the Sugar Plum Fairy and those syrupy waltzes you can’t get out of your head each December. This is a new Nutcracker, with jazz by Ellington, African-American and Dominican children as party guests, and a Harlem nightclub of the ’20s as the fantasy destination for Clara and her prince. Byrd created his innovative version of the classic Christmas ballet for his own dance company, and the production was skillfully photographed by co-author Kuklin (Hoops with Swoopes, p. 742, etc.). Here, Clara is an African-American grandmother facing her first Christmas without her beloved husband Gus, who returns to her in dream sequences and again as the transformed nutcracker. The story mirrors the basic plot of the ballet, with the theme here of an aging grandmother’s acceptance of her husband’s passing and her own impending death rather than a young girl’s awakening. The antagonist is not the Mouse King, but a rather terrifying specter of death, who comes for Clara with his accompanying hounds, death maidens, and ghouls. At first, Clara repels the figure of death, but at the end, she is no longer afraid of him, and she exits on the arm of her husband-prince as they “climb the stairway to eternity.” Kuklin, an experienced dance photographer, captures both the expressive movement of the dancers and their subtle emotions in superb photographs with black backgrounds framed in jewel tones of ruby, emerald, and lapis. This powerful story is not just another retold fairy tale; it stands on its own, dancing in the reader’s imagination. Authors’ note. (Picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0633-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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THE JAR OF FOOLS

EIGHT HANUKKAH STORIES FROM CHELM

Chelm, the legendary Jewish town of fools, is the setting of Kimmel’s (The Runaway Tortilla, see below, etc.) Jewish holiday tales, only two of which are based on traditional Yiddish stories. The others are original or adaptations of stories from other traditions. All of them feature the “wise” fools whose naïveté gets them into strange situations and provides amusing solutions to their dilemmas. Some of the eight stories work better than others. “The Jar of Fools,” “Silent Samson, the Maccabee,” two traditional stories, and “The Soul of a Menorah,” written by Kimmel, are humorous, with surprise endings. “The Magic Spoon” is an adaptation of the stone soup story in which the stranger makes potato pancakes rather than soup. Other stories are less satisfying. Characters and plot strain for credibility—“How They Play Dreidel in Chelm” may lose its point for those readers who do not already know how the dreidel game is played. Gerstein’s (The Wild Boy, 1998, etc.) ink drawings on oil paint create a fantastic setting in which the characters wear rollerskates, snowshoes, bunny slippers, or duck feet. They sport bananas or fish necklaces, pots for hats, medieval ruffs, and costumes of every sort. Each illustration has fantastic details that transcend time and place. Page borders appropriate to the theme of the story help to break the dense format. An uneven collection, but a few of the stories will provide short seasonal read-alouds. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1463-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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