JAN BRETT'S THE NUTCRACKER

Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears.

Brett applies her signature visual storytelling style to the Christmas favorite.

By setting her tale in a snowy, 19th-century Russian city and including in her trademark marginal vignettes both golden musical staves crowded with notes and animal instrumentalists clad in traditional Russian attire, Brett situates this retelling in Tchaikovsky’s ballet rather than Hoffman’s original story, though she retains Hoffman’s names. And as the ballet does, Brett crams her stage with characters, beginning with the Christmas party when Drosselmeier presents Marie with the Nutcracker and continuing through the battle with the Mouse King to Marie and the Nutcracker’s visit to what is here called the land of the Snow Princess. Once there, anthropomorphic Russian animals replace the ethnically stereotyped sweets of the ballet, with arctic foxes, flying squirrels, and hedgehogs taking turns in a snowy wonderland. Like the plot of the ballet, not much makes sense under close examination; unlike the ballet, Brett’s figures display very little movement, so hemmed in are they. Even compositions with relatively few figures feel crowded with decorative detail and superfluous tiny animals, so much so that readers may need to work hard to parse meaning. Despite its adherence to the plot of the ballet, this is not a particularly good preparation for it, but readers already familiar with it may enjoy taking in Brett’s vision. All human characters present White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10982-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

HOW TO CATCH THE EASTER BUNNY

From the How To Catch… series

This bunny escapes all the traps but fails to find a logical plot or an emotional connection with readers.

The bestselling series (How to Catch an Elf, 2016, etc.) about capturing mythical creatures continues with a story about various ways to catch the Easter Bunny as it makes its annual deliveries.

The bunny narrates its own story in rhyming text, beginning with an introduction at its office in a manufacturing facility that creates Easter eggs and candy. The rabbit then abruptly takes off on its delivery route with a tiny basket of eggs strapped to its back, immediately encountering a trap with carrots and a box propped up with a stick. The narrative focuses on how the Easter Bunny avoids increasingly complex traps set up to catch him with no explanation as to who has set the traps or why. These traps include an underground tunnel, a fluorescent dance floor with a hidden pit of carrots, a robot bunny, pirates on an island, and a cannon that shoots candy fish, as well as some sort of locked, hazardous site with radiation danger. Readers of previous books in the series will understand the premise, but others will be confused by the rabbit’s frenetic escapades. Cartoon-style illustrations have a 1960s vibe, with a slightly scary, bow-tied bunny with chartreuse eyes and a glowing palette of neon shades that shout for attention.

This bunny escapes all the traps but fails to find a logical plot or an emotional connection with readers. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3817-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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