A straightforward but strange cautionary tale with vibrant images.

THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE

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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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

SLUG IN LOVE

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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