THE SNOWMAN AND THE SNOWDOG

A sequel of sorts—and a wordy one at that—to the lovely, wordless and beloved The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs (1978).

Billy has moved to a new home, and his old dog dies soon after. But he finds in the house a box with a scarf, hat and other items—and a picture of a boy standing next to a snowman wearing them. He is inspired to build his own snowman, along with a snowdog because he misses his own. Snowman and Snowdog come alive at midnight and with Billy go off on flying adventures and win a downhill race. A gift of a collar from Santa himself turns the snowdog into a real one, and Billy is delighted, although boy and dog discover the snowman has melted away in the morning sun. The abrupt loss of the dog, the discovery of the box (under a floorboard), and the awakening of snowdog and snowman—not just to life but to flying and then racing—make for a confusing and unsatisfying tale. One wonders, too, what Billy’s mom makes of the sudden appearance of an actual dog on what may or may not be Christmas morning. The uncredited illustrations are not a patch on Briggs’ original, atmospheric images.

A travesty. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-38714-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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An early reader that kids will want to befriend.

NOT ME!

In an odd-couple pairing of Bear and Chipmunk, only one friend is truly happy to spend the day at the beach.

“Not me!” is poor Chipmunk’s lament each time Bear expresses the pleasure he takes in sunning, swimming, and other activities at the beach. While controlled, repetitive text makes the story accessible to new readers, slapstick humor characterizes the busy watercolor-and-ink illustrations and adds interest. Poor Chipmunk is pinched by a crab, buried in sand, and swept upside down into the water, to name just a few mishaps. Although other animal beachgoers seem to notice Chipmunk’s distress, Bear cheerily goes about his day and seems blithely ignorant of his friend’s misfortunes. The playful tone of the illustrations helps soften the dynamic so that it doesn’t seem as though Chipmunk is in grave danger or that Bear is cruel. As they leave at the end of the book Bear finally asks, “Why did you come?” and Chipmunk’s sweet response caps off the day with a warm sunset in the background.

An early reader that kids will want to befriend. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3546-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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