Festive fare that ultimately misses the mark.

BOA'S BAD BIRTHDAY

On the cover of this picture book, an impossibly cute, sad-looking boa lolls from a tree branch, birthday hat on his head. What could possibly be the matter?

Boa is having a bad birthday. Each time one of his jungle friends arrives for his party, Boa bolsters his hopes for a wonderful present only to be disappointed. Orangutan gives him a piano; but Boa has no fingers! Monkey brings him sunglasses; but Boa can’t wear them without ears and a nose! Willis gets the tone just right, likely eliciting both gales of laughter and sympathy from youngsters. Ross’ loose, colorful pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations capture the ridiculous situations and poor Boa’s reactions. The comedic high comes when Dung Beetle arrives with a pile of You Know What! In an ingenious twist, Dung Beetle’s gift turns out to be absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, the tale does not end there. In closing, readers are admonished to accept all gifts with gratitude, and in a non sequitur household scene that will provoke more confusion than satisfaction, a delighted child is seen receiving Boa as a gift.

Festive fare that ultimately misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-3450-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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Not enough tricks to make this a treat.

HOW TO CATCH A WITCH

Another holiday title (How To Catch the Easter Bunny by Adam Wallace, illustrated by Elkerton, 2017) sticks to the popular series’ formula.

Rhyming four-line verses describe seven intrepid trick-or-treaters’ efforts to capture the witch haunting their Halloween. Rhyming roadblocks with toolbox is an acceptable stretch, but too often too many words or syllables in the lines throw off the cadence. Children familiar with earlier titles will recognize the traps set by the costume-clad kids—a pulley and box snare, a “Tunnel of Tricks.” Eventually they accept her invitation to “floss, bump, and boogie,” concluding “the dance party had hit the finale at last, / each dancing monster started to cheer! / There’s no doubt about it, we have to admit: / This witch threw the party of the year!” The kids are diverse, and their costumes are fanciful rather than scary—a unicorn, a dragon, a scarecrow, a red-haired child in a lab coat and bow tie, a wizard, and two space creatures. The monsters, goblins, ghosts, and jack-o'-lanterns, backgrounded by a turquoise and purple night sky, are sufficiently eerie. Still, there isn’t enough originality here to entice any but the most ardent fans of Halloween or the series. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Not enough tricks to make this a treat. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72821-035-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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