Sure to sweeten holiday traditions with the true spirit of friendship.

THE BEST GIFT FOR BEAR

A tale about gifts, friends, and tasty treats.

Hedgehog bakes gingerbread cookie gifts for her friends: The mice’s cookies are shaped like snowflakes, the squirrels’ are shaped like trees, and the rabbits each get a specially decorated rabbit cookie. But what about Bear? Bear is a special friend, after all. When Hedgehog arrives back home after delivering gifts, she sees the frosted roof of her cottage and is inspired. In step-by-step illustrations, she creates a wonderful gingerbread house for Bear—one that’s even bigger than Hedgehog herself. The journey to deliver the finished house begins smoothly, but a whipping wind soon reduces the gift to crumbs. Bear rescues Hedgehog from the storm, and later, in the safety and warmth of home, Bear admits to making a mess of Hedgehog’s gift earlier in the day and notes that they were planning to try again tomorrow. Happily, this admission leads to the best gift of all. Recipes for spice-laced gingerbread cookies and honey frosting begin the book, and perhaps all those spices keep this simple story about friendship and holiday gift giving from becoming too saccharine. Hedgehog is adorable, wearing emerald-green earmuffs, baking up a storm, and snuggling in a teacup bed. A bright-red ribbon winds through the story, artfully separating flashbacks from the present, linking baking steps, and focusing attention on important images. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sure to sweeten holiday traditions with the true spirit of friendship. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2922-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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