The illustrations try to illuminate the story, but the substandard verse makes the lights go out on this effort.

READ REVIEW

THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT ON CHRISTMAS

Rhyming verse relates a sentimental tale about how everyone in a neighborhood learns to enjoy the quiet on a dark Christmas Eve after a power failure.

One neighborhood in Medford Town is known as Christmas Block because all the houses are completely covered in lights and Christmas decorations. But one Christmas, when the lights are switched on, a blackout begins on Christmas Block and then spreads around the world. A little girl from Christmas Block points out the newly bright stars, which are then appreciated by all. The people remember: “See, all it took on Christmas night / to guide three kings was one star’s light.” The following year the people on Christmas Block light only one candle as their sole decoration. The text is based on Paul’s song of the same name (available for download from the publisher’s website). While it may work with a guitar accompaniment on a stage, as a picture-book text, the rhyme is seriously flawed and not up to basic standards of poetry. The rhyme scheme changes midway through the story, many lines do not have consistent rhythm, and all too many terminal rhymes are either forced or not-quite-rhymes—or both. Illustrations in deep jewel tones with glowing Christmas lights use a double-page-spread format that gives Christmas Block a solid visual presence with the excitement of the holiday in the air, but they cannot compensate for the text’s inadequacies.

The illustrations try to illuminate the story, but the substandard verse makes the lights go out on this effort. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4543-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Maybe these kids should try babysitting Santa.

HOW TO CATCH SANTA

From the How To... series

The creators of the bestselling How to Babysit a Grandpa (2012) and How to Babysit a Grandma (2014) continue their series with this story about a brother and sister who want to capture Santa on his annual visit to their home.

The children discuss improbable ideas for spotting or catching Santa, including a complicated sequence with notes to lure Santa up to their bedroom. They wait up for Santa, and a nighttime view of Santa and the reindeer on the neighborhood’s roofs makes his arrival seem imminent. Then, in a disappointing conclusion, the children fall asleep with no sign of Santa’s arrival. In the morning it’s clear Santa has been there, as the presents are under the tree and the cookies and carrots have been eaten. There is a trail of red glitter leading to the chimney from the letter the kids sent to Santa, but that’s the only surprise this story has to offer. Readers might be expecting some sort of exciting trap for Santa or some clever way the children get to meet him or ride in his sleigh. No…just a sprinkle of red glitter. Digitally produced illustration are bright and cheery, with cute kids and amusing details, but sharp-eyed readers will notice the decorated Christmas tree in the living room is inexplicably placed in four different locations on different pages.

Maybe these kids should try babysitting Santa. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-49839-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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