This adroit amalgamation of two beloved Christmas stories will be best appreciated by children already familiar with both...

THE NUTCRACKER'S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A Christmas Eve performance of The Nutcracker ballet runs amok with multiple mishaps but is saved in the nick of time by the arrival on set of Santa Claus and his elves.

The familiar rhyme and rhythm of “The Night Before Christmas” serve as the structure for this clever melding of two beloved holiday stories. An all-child cast is about to perform The Nutcracker, but the day of the performance is filled with mishaps, from torn tutus to sick stagehands to a broken nutcracker. Santa and the elves fix everything and even lend the sleigh and reindeer to the Sugarplum Fairy to use in the performance. The play is performed on Christmas Eve, and Santa steps on stage during curtain calls for “a rollicking round of applause.” Large-format illustrations with a double-spread format and horizontal orientation ably capture the backstage and onstage scenes. The multiethnic children who make up the cast seem a little too young to be putting on The Nutcracker, but the roly-poly kids are undeniably cute in their mouse and flower costumes. Two final pages include a plot summary of The Nutcracker and a glossary of ballet terms.

This adroit amalgamation of two beloved Christmas stories will be best appreciated by children already familiar with both tales rather than as an introduction to The Nutcracker ballet. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58536-889-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

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. 2, 2021

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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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