THE WORST CHRISTMAS EVER

Poor Matthew is having the worst Christmas ever.

Well before the holiday season arrives, only Jasper the dog provides Matthew with any comfort when his parents announce in the springtime that the family is moving. When autumn rolls around, Matthew (whom stiff, undistinguished illustrations depict as resembling his dad and appearing white with light skin, red, straight hair, and blue eyes) still hasn’t adjusted. Readers learn that “at his new school, Matthew counted the hours until he could run home to Jasper. At church nothing felt right.” Little sister Lucy (who looks like their mother, with wavy dark hair, light-brown skin, and brown eyes), is happy in their new community, and their parents appear to be happy, too. Lucy’s joy is quite apparent when the minister announces plans for an outdoor Nativity, and she volunteers her doll, Gabriela, to “be baby Jesus.” Matthew is embarrassed by her exuberance, but those feelings shift to deep sadness and worry just before Christmas when Jasper disappears. The family makes fliers and calls around to shelters and veterinarian offices, to no avail. On Christmas Eve, Matthew’s “heart ached for Jasper, lost somewhere in that terribly silent night.” And then, in “a Christmas miracle,” Jasper appears in the living Nativity’s manger, a narrative contrivance that beggars belief and does not mitigate the one-note moodiness of the pages that have come before.

Not among the best. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947888-09-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Flyaway Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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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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