THE CHRISTMAS COAL MAN

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

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. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

As ephemeral as a valentine.

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. 1, 2021

HOW TO CATCH THE EASTER BUNNY

From the How To Catch… series

This bunny escapes all the traps but fails to find a logical plot or an emotional connection with readers.

The bestselling series (How to Catch an Elf, 2016, etc.) about capturing mythical creatures continues with a story about various ways to catch the Easter Bunny as it makes its annual deliveries.

The bunny narrates its own story in rhyming text, beginning with an introduction at its office in a manufacturing facility that creates Easter eggs and candy. The rabbit then abruptly takes off on its delivery route with a tiny basket of eggs strapped to its back, immediately encountering a trap with carrots and a box propped up with a stick. The narrative focuses on how the Easter Bunny avoids increasingly complex traps set up to catch him with no explanation as to who has set the traps or why. These traps include an underground tunnel, a fluorescent dance floor with a hidden pit of carrots, a robot bunny, pirates on an island, and a cannon that shoots candy fish, as well as some sort of locked, hazardous site with radiation danger. Readers of previous books in the series will understand the premise, but others will be confused by the rabbit’s frenetic escapades. Cartoon-style illustrations have a 1960s vibe, with a slightly scary, bow-tied bunny with chartreuse eyes and a glowing palette of neon shades that shout for attention.

This bunny escapes all the traps but fails to find a logical plot or an emotional connection with readers. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3817-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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