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THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE

A straightforward but strange cautionary tale with vibrant images.

A vain Christmas tree receives a hard lesson when he’s almost cut down in this picture book.

In a lovely forest, some pine trees get a warning from their father. “Do you see the stumps?” he asks. Noting that only beautiful trees are cut down by humans for Christmas, the father instructs the group to grow ugly and crooked. Little Stevie thinks his father’s story is silly and decides to grow tall and strong. As winter comes, all the trees look peculiar and twisted—except Stevie, who feels proud of his good looks until a family arrives with axes to cut him down. Stevie mourns his unwise decision, but through the intervention of an odd-looking nature spirit, he is transformed into an ugly tree, safe from humans. While Christmas is a popular picture-book topic, this tale seems likely to make children more worried about the ethics of cutting down trees for their homes than about the problems of vanity. The spirit’s introduction at the climax, with no previous hints of his existence, feels like a late plot addition to save the arrogant tree from his mistakes. Still, Pellico’s clear, text-dense tale uses simple sentences and an accessible vocabulary against Newman’s colorful cartoon illustrations, which show humans with different skin tones. The images of the forest creatures and anthropomorphized trees have a Disney-esque feel. The ugly trees show a lot of personality, and kids will root for them to stay together.

A straightforward but strange cautionary tale with vibrant images.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73391-306-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Moonbow Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2021

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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HOW TO CATCH A DADDYSAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

This frenetic ode to fatherhood is predictable fare but may please series fans.

It’s time to look for the elusive Daddysaurus.

In this latest installment in the seemingly never-ending series about a group of diverse kids attempting to trap mythical creatures, the youngsters are now on the lookout for a big mauve dinosaur with an emblazoned D on his stomach and a superhero cape. The fast-moving Daddysaurus is always on the go; he will be difficult to catch. Armed with blueprints of possible ideas, the kids decide which traps to set. As in previous works, ones of the sticky variety seem popular. They cover barbells with fly paper (Daddysaurus like to exercise) and spread glue on the handle of a shovel (Daddysaurus also likes to garden). One clever trick involves tempting Daddysaurus with a drawing of a hole, taped to the wall, because he fixes everything that breaks. Daddysaurus is certainly engaged in the children’s lives, not a workaholic or absent, but he does fall into some standard tropes associated with fathers. The rhyming quatrains stumble at times but for the most part bounce along. Overall, though, text and art feel somewhat formulaic and likely will tempt only devotees of the series. The final page of the book (after Daddysaurus is caught with love) has a space for readers to write a note or draw a picture of their own Daddysaurus. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This frenetic ode to fatherhood is predictable fare but may please series fans. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-72826-618-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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