THE WONDERFUL ONCE

A CHRISTMAS STORY

A work that creatively updates the Santa Claus mythos.

Buchta’s illustrated children’s book tells a new origin story for a well-known holiday figure.

In a quaint, unnamed village town,there’s an orphanage where every child is happy and well cared for. The entire village chips in each year for a beautiful, festive Christmas celebration in which every child gets the opportunity to pick out a present from a large pile. Lucas Astan, the youngest, chooses the smallest gift: a beautiful, miniature wooden sleigh, which he loves. Late in the evening, a very tall man drops a sad young girl off at the orphanage. In an effort to make her feel welcome, Lucas decides to give her his precious sleigh. This moment serves as the catalyst for the rest of the boy’s notable life. Soon, the Spirit of Giving appears to him and praises his kindness, promising to make his wishes come true. She magically brings Lucas to a wintry place: the North Pole. Young readers will quickly understand that Lucas’ reward is to become Santa Claus. The Spirit intriguingly explains that a large storm of stardust and snowflakes created the omniscient elves who inhabit the North Pole. It turns out that the elves created the Naughty and Nice lists, which is an offbeat spin on the traditional Santa tale; so, too, is the fact that Santa’s sleigh is a life-size version of the one that Lucas gave away. The skillfully executed, full-color painterly illustrations are quite realistic, featuring characters with a range of skin tones; Lucas is depicted with pale skin. Confusingly, though, on one two-page spread, the characters’ faces look morose while the text describes a festive atmosphere.

A work that creatively updates the Santa Claus mythos.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9798986989525

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Warbucks

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2023

SLUG IN LOVE

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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

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