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

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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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Maybe these kids should try babysitting Santa.

HOW TO CATCH SANTA

From the How To... series

The creators of the bestselling How to Babysit a Grandpa (2012) and How to Babysit a Grandma (2014) continue their series with this story about a brother and sister who want to capture Santa on his annual visit to their home.

The children discuss improbable ideas for spotting or catching Santa, including a complicated sequence with notes to lure Santa up to their bedroom. They wait up for Santa, and a nighttime view of Santa and the reindeer on the neighborhood’s roofs makes his arrival seem imminent. Then, in a disappointing conclusion, the children fall asleep with no sign of Santa’s arrival. In the morning it’s clear Santa has been there, as the presents are under the tree and the cookies and carrots have been eaten. There is a trail of red glitter leading to the chimney from the letter the kids sent to Santa, but that’s the only surprise this story has to offer. Readers might be expecting some sort of exciting trap for Santa or some clever way the children get to meet him or ride in his sleigh. No…just a sprinkle of red glitter. Digitally produced illustration are bright and cheery, with cute kids and amusing details, but sharp-eyed readers will notice the decorated Christmas tree in the living room is inexplicably placed in four different locations on different pages.

Maybe these kids should try babysitting Santa. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-49839-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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