Detailed and engaging but not quite complete.


The story of a Nativity play production, an addition to the Dollies series, doubles as a picture book for little ones and an introduction to stagecraft for older children.

Leech uses this volume to allow exploration of a topic through short verbal descriptions, albeit ones that use technically correct language, and color photographs of costumed dolls on custom sets, with all the details—from the hairdos to the props—inviting close study. The dolls look like young children, but each is given its own hairdo and fashion sense. The book begins with a design meeting, at which the show’s director approves the set designer’s sketches. The process continues with auditions, publicity, rehearsals, the technical dress rehearsal, the pre-show choir rehearsal and opening night, all interwoven with job descriptions for the stage manager, set designer, costume designer, sound designer, and lighting designer and crew. The playbill closes the story and doubles as the credits for the book. Readers are likely to enjoy the way the props serve to deepen understanding. While the youngest readers can be entertained by identifying items in the images, like the kazoo, recorder, xylophone, piano and drum in the sound design studio, older readers will enjoy reading the stage manager’s sticky notes and identifying the sources of the set designer’s artistic inspiration, including works by Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico. Though the play is never named, the set design, the set, the costumes and the referenced Nativity scenes hung on the wall provide clues. The book references aspects of the theater that it doesn’t mention in words. For example, it makes a nice distinction between street clothes and costumes both in showing Mary in her pink bathrobe and slippers in her dressing room, as well as in costume on stage, and also by showing the backs of the audience members’ heads in the photograph of the performance. With all the attention to detail, including mention of the little-known role of the dramaturge, it’s odd that the book omits any reference to props or the prop master. Concessions are mentioned but not the box office, and the house manager is missing as well.

Detailed and engaging but not quite complete.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0984421411

Page Count: 32

Publisher: The Home Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.


From the Who's in Your Book? series

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A rollicking tale of rivalry.


Sweet Street had just one baker, Monsieur Oliphant, until two new confectionists move in, bringing a sugar rush of competition and customers.

First comes “Cookie Concocter par excellence” Mademoiselle Fee and then a pie maker, who opens “the divine Patisserie Clotilde!” With each new arrival to Sweet Street, rivalries mount and lines of hungry treat lovers lengthen. Children will delight in thinking about an abundance of gingerbread cookies, teetering, towering cakes, and blackbird pies. Wonderfully eccentric line-and-watercolor illustrations (with whites and marbled pastels like frosting) appeal too. Fine linework lends specificity to an off-kilter world in which buildings tilt at wacky angles and odd-looking (exclusively pale) people walk about, their pantaloons, ruffles, long torsos, and twiglike arms, legs, and fingers distinguishing them as wonderfully idiosyncratic. Rotund Monsieur Oliphant’s periwinkle complexion, flapping ears, and elongated nose make him look remarkably like an elephant while the women confectionists appear clownlike, with exaggerated lips, extravagantly lashed eyes, and voluminous clothes. French idioms surface intermittently, adding a certain je ne sais quoi. Embedded rhymes contribute to a bouncing, playful narrative too: “He layered them and cherried them and married people on them.” Tension builds as the cul de sac grows more congested with sweet-makers, competition, frustration, and customers. When the inevitable, fantastically messy food fight occurs, an observant child finds a sweet solution amid the delicious detritus.

A rollicking tale of rivalry. (Picture book. 4-8 )

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-101-91885-2

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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