SILENT NIGHT

The tale of “Silent Night”—composed in haste by a 19th-century Austrian priest and his organist when their church’s organ broke down just before Christmas and first sung with only a guitar for accompaniment—is robbed of any sense of wonder by this flat, uninspired retelling. From beginning (“ ‘Tomorrow night we will have a wonderful Christmas Eve service,’ he thought”), to end (“Mrs. Gruber and the children clasped their hands with delight”) the text is stiff as a board, paired with art that is all correctly drawn but generic, conventionally posed figures with bland expressions. Worse, while this is based on the truth, invented dialogue runs rampant throughout the presentation. Neither pictures nor words capture any sense of the carol’s soaring beauty or heartfelt emotion. A distant also-ran behind Margaret Hodges’s Silent Night: The Song and Its Story (1997), illustrated by Tim Ladwig. (historical note) (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56397-782-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE JAR OF FOOLS

EIGHT HANUKKAH STORIES FROM CHELM

Chelm, the legendary Jewish town of fools, is the setting of Kimmel’s (The Runaway Tortilla, see below, etc.) Jewish holiday tales, only two of which are based on traditional Yiddish stories. The others are original or adaptations of stories from other traditions. All of them feature the “wise” fools whose naïveté gets them into strange situations and provides amusing solutions to their dilemmas. Some of the eight stories work better than others. “The Jar of Fools,” “Silent Samson, the Maccabee,” two traditional stories, and “The Soul of a Menorah,” written by Kimmel, are humorous, with surprise endings. “The Magic Spoon” is an adaptation of the stone soup story in which the stranger makes potato pancakes rather than soup. Other stories are less satisfying. Characters and plot strain for credibility—“How They Play Dreidel in Chelm” may lose its point for those readers who do not already know how the dreidel game is played. Gerstein’s (The Wild Boy, 1998, etc.) ink drawings on oil paint create a fantastic setting in which the characters wear rollerskates, snowshoes, bunny slippers, or duck feet. They sport bananas or fish necklaces, pots for hats, medieval ruffs, and costumes of every sort. Each illustration has fantastic details that transcend time and place. Page borders appropriate to the theme of the story help to break the dense format. An uneven collection, but a few of the stories will provide short seasonal read-alouds. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1463-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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