These knights know how to keep the castle safe and the readers entertained.

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THE KNIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Three young knights defend their castle from “a red-and-white knight and eight dragons. Oh dear!”

Santa travels back in time to a fanciful medieval Europe with knights, lords, and castles in this clever parody of “The Night Before Christmas.” The text unfolds in pitch-perfect rhymes that follow the basic pattern of the classic poem, with the addition of witty wordplay incorporated into speech balloons and in signs, lists, and banners on the castle walls. The three knights are named Brave Knight, Polite Knight, and Silent Knight, each with a distinct, appropriate personality. When Santa arrives to deliver gifts to the castle, the knights see him as an intruder and try to repel his advances. Santa is just as determined as the knights to succeed in his own mission. He flings his presents and holiday decorations into the castle with an evergreen-tree catapult, which the knights then appropriate for the castle’s Christmas tree. Digitally produced illustrations in deep jewel tones successfully bring to life the complex physical world of the castle and skillfully meet the logistical challenges of the knights’ battle of airborne gifts with Santa. There’s an excellent interplay between the amusing illustrations and the polished text, with lots of clever jokes for readers to discover in the art.

These knights know how to keep the castle safe and the readers entertained. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9932-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

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. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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