It’s hard to dig up a new angle on Santa’s cast of helpers, but the Coal Man is a nugget of originality.

THE CHRISTMAS COAL MAN

A new helper for Santa is introduced as an elderly, elfin man who provides the lumps of coal for the stockings of naughty boys and girls.

Each year the Coal Man searches through his coal mine with the help of his pet canary and his hardworking mule, gathering enough coal to sell to Santa for Christmas deliveries. The Coal Man wants to retire to a tropical island with his pets, but he can’t afford to quit working. This year, when they deliver their annual load to the North Pole, Santa announces that he will stop giving out lumps of coal, as the negative disciplinary tactic isn’t working. Instead, Santa wants to try a special positive reward for the well-behaved children. The depressed Coal Man is sent away with one bag of coal as a souvenir, but when he slips on the ice, the lumps of coal spill out into the snow, mysteriously transformed into huge diamonds. The Coal Man retires to his island, working for Santa painting shells to tuck in the stockings of “the best good boys and girls.” Humorous illustrations, a large trim size, and double-page–spread format make this a good choice for reading aloud to a group. The full-bleed artwork uses a dark palette of purples and blues, with vibrant flashes from Christmas lights, firelight, and the northern lights illuminating the Coal Man’s exciting discovery of his Christmas gift from Santa.

It’s hard to dig up a new angle on Santa’s cast of helpers, but the Coal Man is a nugget of originality. (Picture book. 4-7) 

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-1607-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Sugary uplift, shrink-wrapped for the masses.

HOW TO CATCH A LOVEOSAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

An elusive new quarry leads the How To Catch… kids on a merry chase through a natural history museum.

Taking at least a step away from the “hunters versus prey” vibe of previous entries in the popular series, the racially diverse group of young visitors dashes through various museum halls in pursuit of the eponymous dino—whose quest to “spread kindness and joy ’round the world” takes the form of a mildly tumultuous museum tour. In most of Elkerton’s overly sweet, color-saturated scenes, only portions of the Loveosaurus, who is purple and covered with pink hearts, are visible behind exhibits or lumbering off the page. But the children find small enticements left behind, from craft supplies to make cards for endangered species to pictures of smiley faces, candy heart–style personal notes (“You Rock!” “Give Hugs”), and, in the hall of medieval arms and armor, a sign urging them to “Be Honest Be Kind.” The somewhat heavy-handed lesson comes through loud and clear. “There’s a message, he wants us to think,” hints Walstead to clue in more obtuse readers…and concluding scenes of smiling people young and otherwise exchanging hugs and knuckle bumps, holding doors for a wheelchair rider, and dancing through clouds of sparkles indicate that they, at least, have gotten it. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sugary uplift, shrink-wrapped for the masses. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2022

ISBN: 9781728268781

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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