For those unfamiliar with the Cajun story, this update may be a welcome respite from the flood of Santa Claus and snow-fairy...

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MADEMOISELLE GRANDS DOIGTS

A CAJUN NEW YEAR’S EVE TALE

A humanizing origin story for the Louisiana New Year’s Eve folk figure Madame Grands Doigts.

Mademoiselle Grands Doigts is a young, white maiden known for her beauty, her generosity, and the long fingers that lend her her name. As suitors line up, a jealous bunch of Cajun mean girls gets in the way and cooks up a gris grif. After a night of dancing, Mademoiselle Grands Doigts awakens cursed, her fingers covered in warts and her skin “scaly like a crawfish sack.” Confining herself to an attic, she lives on, giving gifts on New Year’s Eve to good children. In an afterword, author Downing says she wanted to offer a less-scary take on the story, one that focuses on the Madame as a young woman who remains unchanged on the inside despite her curse. Stanley’s hazy, deep-hued painted illustrations are appropriately moody. But modernizing the story to emphasize the cursed woman’s generosity doesn’t overcome a problematic, perhaps unavoidable plot point. With only her physical appearance having changed, Grands Doigts goes from sought-after maiden to a shut-in. More effective, and much creepier, is the last readers see of the curse makers: “Into the swamps they fled, such a wolfish horrid sight, / and if you listen closely, you’ll hear them howl at night.”

For those unfamiliar with the Cajun story, this update may be a welcome respite from the flood of Santa Claus and snow-fairy books crowding the holiday shelves. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2393-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A mildly stimulating and challenging exploration of the holiday.

ABC PASSOVER HUNT

An alphabet book employs a series of riddles and puzzles to engage children in the recognition of the various aspects of the Passover holiday.

An initial search to find all the letters in a double-page illustration features a typical table set for the Seder meal. This is followed by 24 rhymed questions posed in alphabetical order that present a variety of customs, symbols, characters, and concepts of the holiday. For example, the letter B is represented by “Baby Moses,” and readers are asked to choose the correct boat used to float the baby on the Nile. Children are offered a multiple-choice assortment of picture clues that are drawn in a clear, simple cartoon style. In the case of Moses, the vessels include a leaf, a cardboard box, a woven basket, an inner tube, a rowboat, and a rubber ducky. Some of the inquiries are straightforward or obvious for the holiday, while others, such as the page that addresses slavery, require some thinking and possible discussion. A variety of methods are also used to achieve the answers, such as solving a maze and reading a map. Others may require actual knowledge of the subject posed, such as the one on the 15th of Nisan, the Hebrew day and month that Passover begins. Together these short games can be used as an impetus to discuss the holiday's story and significance or to retell its various aspects.

A mildly stimulating and challenging exploration of the holiday. (author’s note, answer key) (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7843-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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