An enjoyable if not groundbreaking collection of stories that could be read throughout the month, as intended, or as a...

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SANTA'S COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS

24 DAYS OF STORIES

In this Canadian import, Santa and his helpers prepare for Christmas with 24 stories keyed to each day of December leading up to the holiday.

Each double-page spread includes a golden ornament with the day’s date, a full-page illustration, and a one-page story about Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves. The characters at the North Pole are white, with the elf crew including both males and females and one senior elf with gray hair. A pre-Christmas visit from Santa includes children of different ethnicities. Throughout the month, the elves prep the sleigh, make toys, put Santa on an exercise program, and nurse Rudolph through a bout of the flu. Santa is an old-fashioned, outspoken fellow who supervises and gives directions, with lots of jolly expressions like “Jumpin’ jingle bells!” and “Cracklin’ candy canes!” The 24 stories are entertaining, with such humorous touches as the elves adding GPS to the sleigh and inventing an overly enthusiastic Supersonic Gift-Wrapping Chicken. Cartoon-style illustrations use a flattened perspective, neon-bright colors, and comical touches like oversized, red glasses on Mrs. Claus. The cover illustration and the first story include a calendar page for December with European-style numerals 1 and 7 that will need explanation to most U.S. children.

An enjoyable if not groundbreaking collection of stories that could be read throughout the month, as intended, or as a longer story in a single session. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-2-924786-05-5

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chouette

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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Beautiful to behold but uneven to read.

THE TREE THAT'S MEANT TO BE

O (little) Christmas tree!

Though it’s not as scraggly as the tree Charlie Brown selects in the television special, the little fir tree who narrates this story isn’t like the others in the forest. A scene in springtime reads, “While other trees grew poised and tall, / I lagged behind. / Looking different. / Feeling small.” When humans come to cut down trees to decorate for Christmas, the little fir tree isn’t chosen. It stands, lonesome, surrounded by the stumps of the other fir trees, with bare-branched deciduous trees in the background. In a happy turn, woodland animals hear the tree’s cries and bring “berries, feathers, / nuts, and flowers” to decorate it right where it stands. It’s a joyful, peaceable kingdom of a scene, enlivened with a bit of whimsy when the tree says that “a shooting star dropped down // [and] sank into my branches and shone so pure, / so bright, that I became a tree of light.” Here and throughout, Zommer’s gentle, warm illustrations outshine the text, which falters in its cadence and rhyme. Closing spreads show the tree growing taller, if still a bit crooked and spindly, with birds and forest animals around it. The final spread depicts a child of color and a white child reading books at its base, affirming the act of reading that brought real children to this closing page.

Beautiful to behold but uneven to read. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-11967-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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