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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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