THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN

A swan with a speech defect. . . ?

But (one may counter) "When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son was born, everyone noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse." So he was, in the first sentence, while Louis the Swan's peculiar problem comes to light slowly in the Canadian wilderness where Sam Beaver and his father are camping, the better to fish (Mr. Beaver) and explore (Sam). He exults in watching wild creatures in wild places—now the two trumpeter swans and their nest, then the fifth cygnet who, unable to beep, takes hold of his shoelace and gives it a pull, "like a greeting." Meanwhile the long-winded father swan, the cob, and his commonsensical wife grow concerned about Louis' handicap (if he can't trumpet how will he attract a mate?) and Louis, at the family's winter base in Montana, determines to "develop myself along other lines": he will seek out Sam and learn to read and write. Which done—in Mrs. Hammerbottom's first grade—he returns with slate and chalk, extends an eager "Hi, there," and draws a blank; nor does Serena, his chosen one, respond to his desperate "I love you." Now the cob, who's considered it, will have to go to Billings and get Louis a trumpet. It is this theft, and the need to make restitution (they are "by nature law-abiding"), that starts Louis on his remarkable career, first, coached by Sam, as Camp Kookooskoos' official trumpeter (and emergency life-saver), then as accompanist for the Swan Boats in Boston's Public Garden (where "There's a Small Hotel," the Ritz Carlton), finally as top attraction at a Philadelphia night club. Bird Lake in the Zoo offers temporary refuge, and there Serena blows in (literally), to be awakened with "Beau—ti—ful dream—er. . . " and won forever. At last Louis, a rich bird, can return home; his father, boasting manfully, can redeem the family honor; and the storekeeper, overcompensated, can only wonder. . . while Serena and Louis content themselves with annual sorties to the scenes of his triumphs. The start is a jolt, and subsequently there are breaks (Louis has had no prior exposure to the written word) and some big accidents—especially Serena's abrupt reappearance. However, when Louis raises his trumpet—to serenade the skeptical hotel clerk, for instance—or Mr. White pinions human foibles—"Kookooskoos" because "a boy's camp should have a peculiar name"—reservations have a way of evaporating.

 

Pub Date: May 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-0-06-028935-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1970

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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