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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Purposeful, but saved from didacticism by the sheer exuberance of the illustrations; the accessible text introduces the idea...


Although today’s kids usually communicate through texting or email, Elliot from the United States and Kailash from India use pictures and a few simple sentences to exchange information about their lives. 

Their teachers facilitate the snail mailing of pictorial letters, just as the author-illustrator did when she visited Nepal, which provided the inspiration for this book. The title, also used as a refrain throughout the book, is a popular saying in India and Nepal, heard by Kostecki-Shaw when she traveled there. Elliot and Kailash explore their similarities and differences, concluding that their lives are “Different, different but the SAME!” The engaging childlike acrylic paintings with crayon, pencil, tissue paper and other collage elements show the busy crowded American streets of Elliot’s city, the traditional buildings of Kailash’s riverside village, the taxis and buses in the States and the taxis and camel-pulled carts in India. The English alphabet is reproduced on wide-ruled notebook paper and the Hindi alphabet (unfortunately unidentified) on a small slate, and both typical American pets (dog and fish) and a whole farmyard of Indian animals appear. Both kids live unusually low-tech lives (no computers or cell phones in sight), but they each enjoy learning about their pen pal’s world.

Purposeful, but saved from didacticism by the sheer exuberance of the illustrations; the accessible text introduces the idea of traditional two-way communication and demonstrates just how small our world can be. (Picture book. 5-7) 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8946-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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Even tantrum-prone readers will love seeing how the grumbletroll works through rage and restores friendships.


When he’s frustrated, hungry, and stubborn, even the nicest troll can turn into a grumbletroll.

“Right behind the forest, first a few steps straight ahead, then once to the left and twice to the right, there lives a little troll.” He’s clearly enjoying a marvelous life—until he decides to build himself a cottage retreat. When his construction collapses, the furry, bright blue troll stomps off in an escalating tantrum described and depicted with both humor and insight. When apples won’t fall from the tree, he shouts “so angrily” that “the worms in the apples get hiccups.” Every little thing makes him rage harder. “It’s as if there is a thunderstorm living inside him. With lightning shooting out of the sky. With thunder rumbling tremendously.” Now the grumbletroll emerges, complete with two scraggly tusks marring his once-cuddly face. That night, his animal friends encourage the grumbletroll to settle down and let them sleep, but he defiantly insists on sleeping sitting up. The next morning, when the grumbletroll roars with complaints, his fed-up friends leave. Soon lonely and bored, the grumbletroll floats an apology to his friends, who are, perhaps unrealistically, quick to accept, and troll’s marvelous life resumes, his cottage retreat now complete. At more than 800 words, this book is recommended for practiced listeners who are also ready to think about managing their own anger. This German import is a companion title for a plush toy developed by creative team aprilkind.

Even tantrum-prone readers will love seeing how the grumbletroll works through rage and restores friendships. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7643-6117-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schiffer

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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