Like so many books commemorating the season, sweet but unremarkable.


Rhyming verse describes various Christmas symbols and events, grouped by color, as four children celebrate the season.

The dominant color in Gamble’s palette shifts accordingly from red through green, gold, blue, and white to brown before concluding pages shift from hues to “you.” The children, two White kids who may be preschoolers or early-elementary children, one Asian child about the same age, and another Asian child who is a young toddler, decorate the tree, go to a Christmas fair, go ice-skating, and participate in a Nativity play, among other activities. The children’s caregivers are largely absent, leaving readers to parse the children’s relationships as they will: They could be siblings, two sets of cousins, or good friends. Other children of varied racial presentation appear in the background. Turner’s verse makes some odd twists and turns, with forced rhymes and/or scansion in more than one or two spots. “Christmas is GOLD. / It’s bright ribbon unrolled. / It’s jingling bells / and warm, yummy smells. / It’s heirlooms YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HOLD. / It’s dancers all tapping among holiday trappings. / It’s nutcracker crowns / and Christmas Eve gowns. / It’s glittery gift wrapping.” Like the verse, the illustrations are also sometimes awkward, the children sometimes seeming as if they are pasted onto a space rather than painted into it. A little mouse in a snowsuit appears in many spreads. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 92.3% of actual size.)

Like so many books commemorating the season, sweet but unremarkable. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65414-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Convergent/Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.


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 cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.


What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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