MAPLE & WILLOW'S CHRISTMAS TREE

From the Maple & Willow series

A charming addition to a winning series.

The fourth entry in the Maple & Willow series finds the sisters excited about Christmas preparations, especially getting their first real Christmas tree.

This year the sisters are going to a tree farm with their parents to select a real tree. But as soon as the tree is brought into the house, Maple begins to sneeze uncontrollably. Their tree must be moved outside, and little sister Willow has something unkind to say about Christmas being ruined. Willow feels remorseful about hurting her big sister’s feelings, so she creeps downstairs at night and decorates a small stepladder with lights and ornaments. Willow even lets Maple put the star on top of their creative Christmas ladder-tree. The understated humor, spare language, and white backgrounds convey a calm, minimalist world in which Christmas isn’t overwhelming and sisters always work out their differences. Endearing illustrations in pencil with digital coloring show the two round-headed, light-skinned little girls enjoying their time together, from sledding to baking to building an unusual snowman. The illustrations of snow-covered evergreen trees are particularly intriguing, with fluffy layers of snow floating on prickly green tree branches with astonishing verisimilitude. The final, wordless page shows the sisters’ Christmas gifts under the ladder, with a small, tree-shaped pot of rosemary for Maple and a wrapped watering can for the sisters to share.

A charming addition to a winning series. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16756-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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

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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