CHRISTMAS MAGIC

Enchantment is in the air as Emily builds a snowwoman in her yard, topping her off with an old coat, a carrot nose, a straw hat, and a fancy name—Katrina. Inside the house, the angel choir is in place on the table, the tree is decorated, the stockings are hung, and all is ready for Emily to be asleep . . . all except for Emily, that is. Wide awake, she peeks out into the yard and sees that her snowwoman has turned her head to look at the snowman built by the new boy next door. Then she runs to the hall to see her cat and dog dancing and the angel choir flying around. Mice in the kitchen baking, stockings dancing—what could be next? Nothing less than a wonderful scene where Katrina and her snowman come to life—a beautiful lady with her gallant gentleman and a moonlit dance in the falling snowflakes. As dawn breaks, her parents find Emily asleep in the chair and wonder at the strange dream she had. But there is no denying that the two snowpeople are now standing side by side, and that Emily and the new boy will be friends. Garland’s (Last Night at the Zoo, not reviewed, etc.) telling of this imaginative story is somewhat flat, and the illustrations are also a mixed bag. While the beautiful outdoor illustrations show a stunning winter wonderland, many of the indoor scenes are punctuated by an odd mixture of drawings and cutouts. On Emily’s comfy bed, a teddy bear sleeps on the pillow, but the cutout picture of the rigid Victorian doll is dropped in, and like many of the cut pictures, appears to be floating in air instead of resting on a surface. A nice enough story—but it’s the mysterious happenings that “hold the true magic of Christmas”? Disappointing. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46797-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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GOING HOME

From the Caldecott Medal—winning team behind Smoky Night (1994), the story of a migrant family returning to Mexico for the Christmas holidays. Carlos and his sisters are not at all sure that "home" is Mexico, although they were born there. It is difficult for them to understand their parents' enthusiasm for the long journey and for the tiny town of La Perla at the end of it. A tender revelation, when Carlos realizes that his parents left the place they deeply loved to provide their children with "opportunities," ties the tale of the journey to the season, the moment, and the future. Diaz creates an explosion of color in his familiar format of a visual environment that is whole and entire: He designed the eccentric, legible typeface; set the framed illustrations and text blocks on digitally enhanced photographs of flowers, pottery, baskets, and folk art; and filled the pictures with his signature saturated colors in bold, broad planes. These do not bind readers to the tale any more than the words do, hinting at the depth of parental love and sacrifice while distancing children from genuine understanding. An affectionate, but not exceptional offering. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-026296-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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