A sweet message about the meaning of Christmas giving.

READ REVIEW

SANTA CLAUS AND THE CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

Heavy snow blanketing a tiny village may mean that Santa won’t be able to reach it.

Anna and Michael, two children, peer anxiously out of their window, wishing for a happy Christmas. “If we wish as hard as we can, Santa will hear us,” says Anna. Indeed he does, standing atop a hill, a cluster of rabbits around him. Santa rummages around in his cupboards to find just the right gifts for the villagers. He chooses just one “perfect surprise gift” and heads to the village on his skis. In the morning, Anna and Michael see an enormous sack in the middle of the village. All of the people shovel their way toward it, trying to guess what it contains. They unwrap boxes within boxes until they discover the one perfect gift that will make their Christmas perfectly happy as they gather around a table by a fire. All of the village’s inhabitants are white, as is Santa. Old-fashioned clothes suggest a 19th- or early-20th-century European peasant village setting (though one man in a modern-looking jersey and slippers complicates this interpretation). Eschewing the modern character of Santa riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, this story gently pulls readers into an unusual perspective. Watercolors in soft focus lend an intimacy to what reads like a folktale, with little animal friends in the illustrations for young children to find.

A sweet message about the meaning of Christmas giving. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78250-543-3

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Floris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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