ON MARDI GRAS DAY

It is dawn on a day of street parties, and children are donning minimalist costumes (an underwater mask for a deep-sea diver, a cowboy hat to evoke a cowboy) so that “even those who love us must guess our identities.” Of course the children aren’t truly disguised: “I know you, Mardi Gras,” one friend calls from the sidewalk. By the fifth spread, readers understand that this is more than a children’s party; “Mardi Gras Indians live in our neighborhood,” and each emerges from “the door blinds of his small house like a spring flower opening.” Five of the double-page oil paintings are given over to actual parade scenes; the rest of the book features more domestic scenes of children in their homes and backyards during the long Mardi Gras day. The story is poetic, but puzzling to children new to the subject: Where is the story taking place? What are “Mardi Gras Indians,” and how to makes sense of the statement “A parade named Zulu will pass”? In read-aloud sessions, cover the author’s note in the back first, for a more succinct introduction to some of the customs of the New Orleans parade. Shaik’s narrative is deliberately child-centered, offering an insider’s view of the day but not quite succeeding in beckoning newcomers to it. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-1442-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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