Like the flimsy bird costume, this story flops to the ground due to lack of real substance.

THE DAY I BECAME A BIRD

The age-old theme of unrequited love is told in this monochromatic minimalist rendering of the story of an unnamed boy who creates a bird costume and wears it all day in order to attract the attention of a young girl, with whom he is hopelessly in love.

The boy tells how he draws pictures of Sylvia, including “one with hearts and a smiling sun.” Confusingly, these pictures are not shown, only sequences in the construction of a whole-body bird costume. The reason for this unfolds elliptically. Sylvia loves birds and “gently cares for them when they are injured.” She is shown holding a bird amid a collage of engravings of different kinds of birds, not identified by species. Although she is described as having “birds on her pants and dresses” and wearing “bird barrettes in her hair,” she is not illustrated with any of these attributes, just as a simply drawn figure watching a bird through binoculars. In spite of the challenges and mocking from classmates, the boy wears the costume built in the opening pages all day at school, drawing warmth and courage from the disguise. His strategy is implausibly rewarded with a romantic embrace from Sylvia. Guridi’s line drawings appear on buff-colored backgrounds; both Sylvia and the narrator appear to be fair-haired and -skinned.

Like the flimsy bird costume, this story flops to the ground due to lack of real substance. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77138-621-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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