The warmth of family love and support wafts enticingly through this homage to tradition.


The aroma of steamy corn deliciousness wraps Abuela’s home in incredible warmth and anticipation.

Alongside mounds of masa, earthy roasted chiles, and seasoned meat, the entire family forms an assembly line of cooperation and laughter. Family stories are shared and passed down to the kids, along with Abuela’s own unique way of creating her tamales. Each step carries a special message of encouragement: “may you always be flexible”; “may you always stand tall and proud”; “may you have lots and lots of hugs.” The tamales are wrapped in their pliable husks stuffed with dreams, hope, and love—and meat and chiles. As they steam, the family waits with paciencia—patience. Music, singing, and storytelling reverberate within the walls of Abuela’s home. Finally, the tamales are done. The savory Christmas Eve gifts are unwrapped one by one, and Abuela proclaims as the tamales disappear, “May your life be delicious!” Genhart’s loving tribute to the women of his Mexican American family is heartfelt and sincere. His mother is revealed in the author’s note to be the nieta (granddaughter) of the story, and she continues the family legacy at the book’s end with a new tamalada: “You start with una hoja….” The semibilingual text carries Lora’s illustrations, as they convey organized chaos while flickering between the vibrant colors of Christmas present and gray-toned memories of the past.

The warmth of family love and support wafts enticingly through this homage to tradition. (illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951836-22-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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