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From the Boy Called Christmas series , Vol. 3

Agenda wends its way throughout, but this Yuletide yarn often rises into the sparkling snowdrifts of fantasy.

It turns out that living with Father Christmas isn’t all cloudberry pie and jolly elves.

After escaping from the workhouse in The Girl Who Saved Christmas (2017), Amelia has joined Father and Mother Christmas in Elfhelm, the land powered by hope. Trouble is, she doesn’t quite fit in. As a human, she’s too large for the elf furniture, and she is terrible at school. For example, she just can’t fathom that “in elf mathematics the best answer isn’t the right one, it’s the most interesting” one. In this trilogy closer, trouble really starts when Amelia accidentally crashes a favored sleigh. The traitorous Father Vodol leaps at the opportunity to sabotage Amelia and the entirety of Christmas by setting up a newspaper called the Daily Truth in order to spread lies. At Vodol’s side are the Easter Bunny and his army of soldier rabbits. The Easter Bunny holds a festering grudge, his slogan being, “It’s time to make Easter great again.” When most of the elf population believes the fake news, Father Christmas, Amelia, and Mother Christmas must make manifest that amazing things can happen in an instant. This adventure is accompanied by cozily wonky illustrations, but militarized rabbits and the obvious political mirroring seem counterintuitive to the very heart of holiday mythology. All the human and humanlike characters are white.

Agenda wends its way throughout, but this Yuletide yarn often rises into the sparkling snowdrifts of fantasy. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78689-068-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Canongate

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018

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A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.

Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Convincing, humorous, warm, and definitely spooky.

Henry, the new boy in Barbara Anne Klein’s Seattle fifth-grade class, dresses oddly, but that isn’t the strangest thing about him.

Henry and narrator Barbara Anne (or Bitsy as her parents and grandmother call her) bond over their need to escape their assigned lunch table, and Barbara Anne soon discovers the subject of Henry’s absorbed sketching at recess: the boy who seems to be haunting him. Irrepressible, strong-minded Barbara Anne is not always aware of her limitations, and Siebel’s voice for her is both funny and warm. Henry battles a respiratory infection throughout much of the story even as he and Barbara Anne begin to realize that young Edgar, Henry’s ghost, did not survive the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918. A session with a Ouija board and a letter and yearbook discovered in Henry’s attic tell part of the story. Edgar’s father’s journal, found in the public library archives, reveals the rest. Siebel cleverly weaves together the story of the developing friendships among Barbara Anne and her classmates and the story of Edgar’s friendship with Henry’s neighbor, Edgar’s playmate as a small child and now a very old woman. Henry, Barbara Anne, and Edgar present white; classmate Renee Garcia, who looks forward to eventually celebrating her quinceañera, and Barbara Anne’s teacher, Miss Biniam (“she looks like an Ethiopian princess”) are the only main characters of color.

Convincing, humorous, warm, and definitely spooky. (Ghost story. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-93277-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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