RUNAWAY DREIDEL!

Readers certainly don’t need to be familiar with the poem “The Night Before Christmas” or with the alternative lyrics to “On Top of Old Smokey” (about the runaway meatball) to appreciate the humor of this Chanukah offering, but it wouldn’t hurt. Owing its rhythm to the former and its plot to the latter, this hilarious take-off has a delicious flavor all its own. ’Twas the first night of Chanukah when a boy’s shiny new dreidel makes a run for it. “It spun past a shoe store and past a boutique / It spun past two delis, one kosher, one Greek.” When the dreidel leaves Brooklyn and heads for the hills, the scenery begins to look more like a Russian shtetl than anywhere in North America. Brooker’s (Isabella Abnormella and the Very, Very Finicky Queen of Trouble, 2000, etc.) madly tilting, fanciful oil and cut-paper collage illustrations are wonderfully textured and full of fabulous details: buttons that look like Greek coins, shirts and dresses cut from wallpaper, and a gift for grandpa in a Tiffany’s signature box. When the dreidel decides to go into orbit—“It sparkled and glittered and twinkled and shone / Like a jewel in the crown of a queen on a throne”—everyone goes home to celebrate the holiday. Naturally, Newman (Dogs, Dogs, Dogs, p. 738, etc.) ends with a nod to that well-known Christmas poem. A lively Chanukah romp that can be enjoyed by every denomination. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6237-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A sweet story highlighting nonromantic love during the Valentine season.

THE HOUSE OF LOVE

In a big, old house on a snowy hill, the Amore family of nine celebrates Valentine's Day.

Mia Valentina, the youngest family member, and Mama clean the house and decorate for the Amores’ favorite holiday. Then Mia’s mother helps her make thoughtful but funny valentines for her 6 siblings. When Papa and the rest of the clan return home from a basketball game, Mia’s siblings get a kick out of their valentines, and Papa presents Mama with chocolate cherry cordials, but no one gives Mia a gift. While the family has dinner and plays games, Mia’s sadness seemingly goes unnoticed. It’s not until bedtime that she makes a discovery that chases away her gloom. The pages of this book are text-heavy, making it a good springboard for young readers making the transition to chapter books. The light pink pages, cheerful illustrations, and homespun authenticity of the text will appeal to children. The cozy Appalachian mountain setting shines through. Crafty types will glean inspiration to create a gumdrop tree, custom valentines, or themed cupcakes. Mentions of an antique washing machine and patched-up windows establish the Amores as a working-class family. The old house and large family could be read as standard storybook fare or, by more critical readers, as a romanticized image of rural life, and the didactic ending feels old-fashioned. The Amores are White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A sweet story highlighting nonromantic love during the Valentine season. (Illustrated text. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20331-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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