WHEN SANTA WAS A BABY

There have been several recent stories about Santa’s origins, but this one is the shortest and simplest, accessible to the...

A little boy named Santa grows up with definite tastes of his own in this humorous story about the origins of Santa Claus.

Even as a baby, little Santa is developing into his own person. He already has dimples and a cute little nose, “like a cherry.” (Bailey effortlessly weaves recognizable snatches of “The Night Before Christmas” into the text throughout the book.) He doesn’t coo like other babies—he just starts talking with a bold “HO, HO, HO!” Santa’s supportive parents love everything about him, so they let him wear red clothes and allow him to give away his birthday presents to his friends. Little Santa trains a family of hamsters to pull a matchbox sleigh, and he is very interested in the chimney and the ashes in the fireplace. As Santa gets older, he and his much shorter best friend, green-clad Eldred, like to make toys together. The final pages of the understated, witty story show Santa growing into his adult life, fulfilling all his childhood interests and dreams. The last page shows cookies and milk left out for Santa Claus with a note from his still-doting parents. Simple illustrations with white backgrounds use textured surfaces and blurred edges that provide a nostalgic feel of remembered childhood. Young Santa shows characteristics that he will still have as an adult, including his round belly and jocular wave.

There have been several recent stories about Santa’s origins, but this one is the shortest and simplest, accessible to the youngest of Santa’s fans. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77049-556-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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