Committed fans of the first two books may be pleased, but this comes across as more coffee-table self-indulgence on the part...

THE REINDEER WISH

The creators of The Christmas Wish (2013) and The Tiny Wish (2015) return with their daughter for another extravagantly photographed Nordic adventure.

Only-child Anja is lonely, so she writes weekly letters to Santa asking for a sibling or, preferably, a puppy. Taking a break after skiing one Christmas Eve, she learns from the cardinal that introduced her to Santa Claus the previous year of an abandoned reindeer, which she takes home and names Odin. Together they grow and flourish in the spectacularly beautiful Norwegian countryside. When, one day, Odin tears up while watching a herd of wild reindeer pass, Anja knows it’s time to say goodbye. Rather than set him free, she takes him to Santa to join his “herd of magic reindeer”—and is given a puppy as consolation. While blonde, chubby-cheeked Anja is cute as a button, particularly in her various Norwegian folk costumes, and the countryside is breathtaking, the freshness that marked her first outing has definitely worn off. Too many of the compositions look like photo collages, damaging the verisimilitude, and the syrupy text is both overlong and poorly paced. Exactly how Odin came to be abandoned is never addressed, and Anja’s problematic adoption of this wild creature is skirted.

Committed fans of the first two books may be pleased, but this comes across as more coffee-table self-indulgence on the part of the creators than a picture book with broad child appeal. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37921-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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