Ingenuous and sweet.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TREE!

A TU B'SHEVAT STORY

On the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the birthday of the trees, Joni strives to create a celebration befitting her old majestic tree.

She brings water; with friend Nate, she blows and blows the clouds away until the sun peeks out; she even places a large mud cupcake at the base of the tree’s trunk. Although the tree doesn't eat the cupcake, it may look a little happier. Really, it's a frustratingly unresponsive honoree. Determined to find the right gift for her leafy friend, Joni concludes that a new tree planted close by and a promise to continue to nurture her arboreal companions is the best way to observe the holiday. “I promise to protect you and water you and love you.…I’ll be good to the trees of the world.” Demure characters colored in the hues of pale spring create a peaceful atmosphere for this environmentally conscious holiday, which encourages a respect for the Earth’s natural offerings. Joni’s "thinking out loud" conversational dialogue is balanced against an omniscient narrator, providing an easy-to-interpret text. And while directed at a Jewish audience, the overall ecological message can be applied in just about any cultural milieu.

Ingenuous and sweet. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-3151-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A lump of coal for this one.

THE THREE WISHES

A CHRISTMAS STORY

An unusual origin story for Santa Claus.

“Long, long ago in the very north a group of people lived with the reindeer.” Snow never states that the nomadic people in his story are Sami, but he does nothing to keep readers from making the association. The story relates how, one winter solstice, the main character, an unnamed boy, discovers the family’s precious reindeer are missing. He goes out into the snow to find them, following them into a cave that leads deep underground to a magical land of Summer. It’s guarded by three creatures who tell the boy he may never return to his home but who grant him three wishes. He asks for freedom, happiness, and time—experiencing them once each year when he is permitted to return to his family and their clan, who lie in suspended animation during his visit. Each year he leaves gifts, even decorating the inside of their lodge. One year, a guardian of Summer gives him a feather that will enable his reindeer to fly, and on another, anticipating his visit, his family leaves him a red suit trimmed in white. It’s all very clever, but in borrowing the traditional habits of the Sami and failing to clarify that his mythmaking is original, Snow risks clouding many readers’ understanding of a real, extant, and marginalized culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 68.6% of actual size.)

A lump of coal for this one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84365-386-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Pavilion Children's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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