THE NUTCRACKER

According to the introduction, the beloved Yuletide ballet that we see was based on a gentler version of the tale by Alexandre Dumas père. This version, which differs from the ballet in several ways, is based on Hoffmann’s 1816 original and tells a richer tale. Clara and Fritz are delighted with the Christmas gifts of their godfather Drosselmeier, especially the Nutcracker, which Clara cares for even after Fritz breaks its jaw. Clara encounters the Mouse King and his minions not once but twice in dreamlike sequences, and in between, she hears Drosselmeier’s stories of “the Hard Nut” and “Why the Nutcracker Is So Ugly.” Those intensify her resolve and add layers to the story. The gouache illustrations have a beautiful folktale dreaminess—echoes of Chagall here—as Paschkis borders center images with horror vacui designs in single bright colors. The figures are angular and exaggerated but wonderfully detailed. Paschkis plays with repetitive motifs and silhouetted patterns: Clara’s long braid regularly whips out of the picture plane. The accompanying CD by the London Symphony Orchestra contains excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s score. Unfortunately, there is no credit given for either the introduction or the retelling itself. (Picture book/folktale. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8118-2962-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2001

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BAD KITTY

From the Bad Kitty (chapter book) series , Vol. 2

Bad Kitty is back; and, just like every morning, she doesn’t want to get out of bed. Today, however, is a special day: Bad Kitty’s birthday! After a special alphabetical breakfast made of everything from Aardvark Bagels to Yak Zabaglione, Bad Kitty “helps out” with the decorations (i.e., destroys them). She picks out what she really wants from the Cat-alog of Cat Toys just before the guests start to arrive. She unwraps their… questionable gifts, which promptly vanish. Who is stealing them? Bad Kitty’s human gives her a truly hideous gift, and Bad Kitty has a major freakout until a special guest calms her down. Then Poor Puppy gives Kitty his homemade present, and it’s time for bed. Bruel’s follow-up to Bad Kitty Takes a Bath (2008) is nearly as much fun. Uncle Murray returns with his real facts about cats, and an appendix offers information on the breeds of each of the guests. The frenetic black-and-white illustrations are just plain hysterical, and the translations of Siamese Chatty Kitty’s blathering is a stitch. Fun for all, especially fans. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59643-342-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

HAPPY HOWLIDAYS

A MIDDLE SCHOOL STORY

From the Dog Diaries series , Vol. 2

Following series opener Dog Diaries (2018), Junior, a dog of huge enthusiasm but not much sense, is back for a second romp with his ever so tolerant owner, “Ruff.”

It’s time for the howlidays, including Fangsgiving and, of course, Critter-Mess-Day, the one that features the mysterious Saint Lick! Junior’s take on these events¾all of them new to him since he’s recently been adopted from the pet shelter—is pretty funny. The story consists nearly entirely of his lively encounters with novel holiday-related stuff and his doggy interpretation of what he discovers, quite likely to appeal to children’s funny bones. All of this silliness is presented in first-dog narration in diary format, in large, clear print on pages that overflow with rollicking illustrations that are perfectly matched to the text. There is little in the way of plot or character development, just a series of silly episodes climaxing in Junior’s extremely thorough booby-trapping of the entire house to fend off Saint Lick since he’s heard the jolly fellow leaves “presents” all over the world—and everyone knows what those are: poop! Although his efforts leave the house flooded, toilet paper strewn everywhere and an angry family, Junior is proud of his accomplishment: no “presents.” Ruff (actually Rafe) is Armenian. The tale concludes with a helpful glossary of Doglish terms and several pages of games and drawing instruction.

Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45618-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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