A sweet story about coping with new siblings and appreciating friendship, featuring some inspired use of Australian animals.

ZANGADOO KANGAROO AND THE MYSTERIOUS BOOMERANG

A gentle adventure story, with a subtle moral about accepting new siblings without feeling displaced.

Zangadoo Kangaroo feels overshadowed by his little brother Joey, but when he borrows his father’s magical boomerang, he discovers a special talent and some new friends—a colorful group of Australian animals. The great strength of the book is its focus on these animals, with all of the top-billing creatures making appearances—kangaroos, koalas, wombats—but also lesser knowns like budgies and emus. The creative use of Australian slang is also a highlight, with words like “crikey,” “lolly” and “billabong” that will delight younger readers. The book has a glossary in the back that will define Aussie words, which may ignite a further interest in the flora and fauna of Australia. Small details, such as Zangadoo’s mum’s surfing trophies and his dad’s work as a bush pilot, sketch in a picture of an eccentric and loving family that would be fun to visit again. One stumbling point is that while the book suggests that the boomerang is magical, the nature of its power isn’t explored. There is a brief discussion of the boomerang’s history, but more use of it would have made this stronger and livelier for young readers. Also, moments of tension are undercut a little too quickly—Zangadoo’s friends travel to the Outback, seemingly walking there from their small town, and find him almost immediately after the boomerang has whisked him away on a magical journey, and a scene of Zangadoo and his friends being chased by dingoes is resolved after only a page. However, younger readers should enjoy the simplicity of the story, as well as the adorable illustrations.

A sweet story about coping with new siblings and appreciating friendship, featuring some inspired use of Australian animals.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984742820

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Zangadoo Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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