Though it’s fairly unoriginal at its core, this story’s charismatic star will have appeal in dog-loving households.

LATKE, THE LUCKY DOG

A rescued dog chosen as a Hanukkah present at an animal shelter relates his good luck as he learns to adapt to his new family and home.

Zoe and Zach welcome their new pet, a playful, medium-sized, golden-brown dog, and name him Latke (he’s exactly the color of one). The newest member of the family assumes all the celebratory aspects of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday are just for him and innocently creates a mild disturbance on each night. Latke eats the sufganiyot and latkes, rips open presents, chews up the dreidels and candles, slobbers all over the chocolate gelt and knocks the bowl of applesauce over. With each mishap, Zoe and Zach find a way to forgive, letting the curious new dog know he is very fortunate indeed. Ever remorseful, Latke finally accepts his own gift of a chew toy and understands he is one lucky dog to be part of a great family. Latke relates his own story, folding his innocent misdeeds into the basic structure of the eight nights of remembrance. Simple, childlike gouache scenes favor the star of the story, a sweet and personable mutt sporting floppy black ears against a brown happy face. He has rather more personality than the overall presentation, which cannot shed its inherent didacticism.

Though it’s fairly unoriginal at its core, this story’s charismatic star will have appeal in dog-loving households. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9038-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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Best for younger readers who prefer thrills and chills with an occasional giggle.

TEN CREEPY MONSTERS

This countdown romp begins with a front-cover portrait of 10 smiling and grimacing monsters before they set forth on their perilous adventure.

“Ten creepy monsters met ’neath a gnarled pine. / One [a ghost] blew away, and then there were nine.” So continues the predictable rhyme, with the various creatures meeting mostly unfortunate ends: The zombie loses his foot, the mummy snags his wrappings, and the vampire glances at the sunrise. Some do not perish but are only distracted; the werewolf cannot resist howling at a shocked full moon, and the sea monster, in one of the funnier (though incongruous) spreads, “found his love,” who is a startled woman in a bathing suit and cat’s-eye glasses near the shore. As the numbers dwindle, only a squat, goblin-green monster remains, until this “one creepy monster rushed home at a run.” The page turn reveals a green mask hanging from a bedpost, Halloween candy spilling out from a sack underneath the bed and a contented boy, who “pulled up his blanket, and then there were none.” Armstrong-Ellis injects just the right amount of humor into her portrayals of the ghoulish bunch, keeping the tone appropriately light, despite the body count.

Best for younger readers who prefer thrills and chills with an occasional giggle. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0433-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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