MERRY CHRISTMAS, MARY CHRISTMAS!

A readable, mildly amusing story, but the message is obvious and the motivation is lacking.

A family with the last name of Christmas celebrates the holiday in over-the-top style, but their daughter Mary is less than enthusiastic.

The family’s Christmas tree is far too large, they have massive piles of gifts, and their house has so many lights that power to their neighborhood is interrupted. Mary wishes her family’s Christmas were not so lavish, and she tells the department-store Santa all about it. Santa advises her that she needs to find some way to love Christmas herself. On Christmas morning, Mary convinces her family to change their ways, and they pack up their tree, presents, and lights, tying everything on top of their van in comical fashion. They invite everyone in town to a Christmas party, and the community works together to set everything up in a park for a celebration on Christmas night. The story has an obvious message, that excess at Christmas can spoil the holiday, though Santa doesn’t agree with that. There isn’t much underlying motive for Mary’s attitude (it doesn’t seem to be rooted in her name) nor explanation of why her family celebrates to such excess and then abruptly changes. Cartoon-style illustrations in bold colors create a busy, humorous effect with a huge cast of background characters of many ages and ethnicities. The Christmas family and Santa are white.

A readable, mildly amusing story, but the message is obvious and the motivation is lacking. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4677-9261-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

As ephemeral as a valentine.

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. 1, 2021

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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