Gorgeous illustrations make this one sure to fly off shelves “like the down of a thistle.” (Picture book. 3-8)

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DASHER

HOW A BRAVE LITTLE DOE CHANGED CHRISTMAS FOREVER

An origin story for Santa’s “eight tiny reindeer.”

Nearly two centuries after “A Visit From St. Nicholas” originated Santa Claus’ “coursers” and “called them by name,” Tavares offers readers their backstory, centered on “a brave young doe named Dasher.” First, the frontmatter notes “a time…when Santa’s sleigh was pulled…by a single horse, named Silverbell.” Ensuing pages depict not a wintry scene of Santa and Silverbell but a parched landscape with a crowd of people peering at penned reindeer as part of the cruel J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie. Illustrated details in clothing and material culture suggest a 19th-century American setting, but the focus is on the animals’ cramped misery. Though kind children provide solace through carrots and smiles, Dasher’s main comfort comes from her mother’s stories of a northern homeland with “crisp, cold air and cool blankets of white snow.” One windy night, the pen’s gate blows open and Dasher escapes. While following the North Star, she encounters Santa (depicted as a white-bearded white man) and a weary Silverbell and offers to help pull the sleigh. Tavares’ art is at its best in such magical scenes, which fairly beg to be made into Christmas cards, but the storytelling falters due to the ease with which the other reindeer escape when Santa grants Dasher her “best wish yet” and rescues her family.

Gorgeous illustrations make this one sure to fly off shelves “like the down of a thistle.” (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0137-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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