An appealing production overall and a helpful introduction for children preparing to see the ballet, but it’s one that needs...

GEORGE BALANCHINE’S THE NUTCRACKER

This introduction to the ballet closely follows the production of the New York City Ballet, as originated by George Balanchine.

Protagonist Marie is introduced on the cover as a blonde, white sylph dancing with her nutcracker toy. All the standard elements of the story are introduced in order, including the transformation of the Christmas tree, cleverly illustrated by shifting the page orientation by 90 degrees to accommodate its sudden growth. Marie and the Prince travel through the Land of Sweets, where they meet the characters from the ballet, such as the Sugarplum Fairy and Mother Ginger, before returning home in their magical sleigh drawn by reindeer. This interpretation has the advantage of a text that is not too long or complicated for young children. The captivating illustrations have an art nouveau look, with swirling skirts, trailing ribbons, and flowing hair styles. A concerning aspect of the style is the noticeable thinness of the female dancers, especially Marie and the other little girls at the party. Stick-thin arms and legs for little girls do not reflect reality and reinforce problematic body-image ideals. The main characters in the story are all white, while some of the party guests and dancers are from other ethnic groups. Two final pages include additional facts and the history of the New York City Ballet production.

An appealing production overall and a helpful introduction for children preparing to see the ballet, but it’s one that needs some real little girls as artist's models. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5829-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

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. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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