Warm indeed.

READ REVIEW

ANGELA'S CHRISTMAS

A reissue of McCourt’s Irish Nativity story.

Like his Pulitzer Prize–winning title, Angela’s Ashes (1996), McCourt’s picture book (first published in 2007 as Angela and the Baby Jesus) draws on his mother’s life. Recently adapted as a Netflix animated film, the story is now rereleased with a new title. In both versions, Colón’s delicate, sure watercolor, colored pencil, and lithograph pencil illustrations lend light and warmth to the story of a little girl’s worry that the baby Jesus in her church’s Nativity is cold. Filled with good intentions, she absconds with the figurine and hides it in her warm bed. Rich dialogue that captures the characters’ Shannonsider brogue enlivens McCourt’s storytelling while subtle characterization evokes tender familial dynamics. Angela’s elder brother, Pat, characterized as mentally disabled, sees her with the baby Jesus and tells their mother, who initially says he has “a great imagination.” Angela is upset when he persists and gives away her secret. Alarmed, but sure of her daughter’s benevolence, Mammy marches the family to the church to return the baby Jesus, where they encounter the priest and a policeman searching for the thief. The resolution hinges on Pat’s benevolence when he misunderstands the policeman’s gentle ribbing that his sister will go to jail and offers himself in her stead.

Warm indeed. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6122-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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