A cheerful effort with a tiny, heartfelt message tucked in River Rose’s red envelope.

RIVER ROSE AND THE MAGICAL CHRISTMAS

In this second entry about River Rose, the protagonist uses magical balloons to float to the North Pole, where she enjoys fantastical treats and meets Santa Claus.

River Rose, a white girl with short, blonde hair and freckles, has written a letter to Santa and wants to deliver it in person. On Christmas Eve, she and her little dog fly off with the balloons, following the sounds of singing voices. They find their way to Santa’s village at the North Pole, where they are welcomed by Mrs. Claus and the elves (singing a verse from a song by Clarkson). While waiting for Santa’s return, River Rose and her dog join the elves in sampling 10 enchanted treats, such as flavored snowballs and life-size gingerbread houses. When Santa returns the sleepy girl and dog to their home, River Rose gives him her letter, which simply says, “Thank you!” On Christmas morning, the girl finds a special present under her tree: a music box that plays the elves’ Christmas song. The story is told in rhyming couplets in a cheery though somewhat singsong rhythm, with only one verse from the elves’ special song (which can be heard in full online). Fleming’s mixed-media collage illustrations elevate the story with exuberant action and amusing details. The elves have varying skin tones and include both males and females. Santa and his wife are white, and Mrs. Claus is refreshingly modern with short, gray hair, jeans, and stylish red boots.

A cheerful effort with a tiny, heartfelt message tucked in River Rose’s red envelope. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-269764-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez,...

MANGO, ABUELA, AND ME

Abuela is coming to stay with Mia and her parents. But how will they communicate if Mia speaks little Spanish and Abuela, little English? Could it be that a parrot named Mango is the solution?

The measured, evocative text describes how Mia’s español is not good enough to tell Abuela the things a grandmother should know. And Abuela’s English is too poquito to tell Mia all the stories a granddaughter wants to hear. Mia sets out to teach her Abuela English. A red feather Abuela has brought with her to remind her of a wild parrot that roosted in her mango trees back home gives Mia an idea. She and her mother buy a parrot they name Mango. And as Abuela and Mia teach Mango, and each other, to speak both Spanish and English, their “mouths [fill] with things to say.” The accompanying illustrations are charmingly executed in ink, gouache, and marker, “with a sprinkling of digital magic.” They depict a cheery urban neighborhood and a comfortable, small apartment. Readers from multigenerational immigrant families will recognize the all-too-familiar language barrier. They will also cheer for the warm and loving relationship between Abuela and Mia, which is evident in both text and illustrations even as the characters struggle to understand each other. A Spanish-language edition, Mango, Abuela, y yo, gracefully translated by Teresa Mlawer, publishes simultaneously.

This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez, an honoree. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6900-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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