HALLOWEEN

What do you get when you cross one of America’s most successful comedians with one of childhood’s most sacred days? A very funny picture book . . . for adults. Seinfeld’s (SeinLanguage, not reviewed) maiden effort for a child audience reads exactly like one of his stand-up routines: “. . . the first time you hear the concept of Halloween when you’re a kid, your brain can’t even process the idea. You’re like, ‘What is this? What did you say? Someone’s giving out candy? Who’s giving out candy? EVERYONE WE KNOW is just giving out candy?’ ” The narrative moves back and forth from the second-person address to a presumed adult audience to recollections of his own travails as a trick-or-treater. Parts are just gut-splitting, as when he finally gets his coveted Superman costume-in-a-box and realizes that the cruel reality is that it that it looks more like “Superman’s pajamas.” Magazine illustrator Bennett contributes high-energy paintings that depict a chubby-cheeked, youthful Seinfeld in a variety of dizzying perspectives that capture the momentum of the text: the bowed profile of child-Seinfeld trudging out the door in his baggy Superman costume, lantern-jawed plastic mask—and the winter coat his mother makes him wear—is priceless. But however well executed technically, it’s still, deep down, not a book for kids; the stance of the narrative necessarily demands a backward-looking audience, not an audience that is still living the experience of Halloween. Kids will like the bright illustrations and the consuming enthusiasm for candy, but ultimately there’s not much else there for them. The publisher labels the book for “all ages”—change that to 30-50, and you’ll get a much better match of product to audience. (Picture book. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-316-70625-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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