A NEW IMPROVED SANTA

Precipitated by a certain snugness in his special seasonal suit, Santa suffers a serious, year-long identity crisis in this comical offering from Wolff (Cackle Cook’s Monster Stew, 2001, etc.). He goes on a diet, lifts weights, cuts and dyes his hair and beard, tries out new clothing styles, and gets a boom box and a computer. Santa experiments with different transportation methods and finally replaces his sleigh and reindeer with a “roaring red rocket-copter.” The children who talk to him about their gifts in December, however, don’t like the new Santa, because he looks like an unfamiliar stranger, of course, and his transformed looks even make one little girl cry. Presto, change-o, with Mrs. Claus’s help, Santa returns to his roots (white hair and all) and decides it’s OK to be old-fashioned. Patient Mrs. Claus declares that Santa really is new and improved, because now he’s smarter, having learned something important about himself. Cravath (The Princesses Have a Ball, p. 1215, etc.) provides some ingenious interpretations of Santa’s new wardrobe and hairstyles, as well as his attempts to use all the latest contraptions of foolish mortals. The entire work pokes gentle fun at those adults who seek to reinvent themselves, with yet another interpretation of the ever-reliable “to thine own self be true” theme. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-35249-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Maybe these kids should try babysitting Santa.

HOW TO CATCH SANTA

From the How To... series

The creators of the bestselling How to Babysit a Grandpa (2012) and How to Babysit a Grandma (2014) continue their series with this story about a brother and sister who want to capture Santa on his annual visit to their home.

The children discuss improbable ideas for spotting or catching Santa, including a complicated sequence with notes to lure Santa up to their bedroom. They wait up for Santa, and a nighttime view of Santa and the reindeer on the neighborhood’s roofs makes his arrival seem imminent. Then, in a disappointing conclusion, the children fall asleep with no sign of Santa’s arrival. In the morning it’s clear Santa has been there, as the presents are under the tree and the cookies and carrots have been eaten. There is a trail of red glitter leading to the chimney from the letter the kids sent to Santa, but that’s the only surprise this story has to offer. Readers might be expecting some sort of exciting trap for Santa or some clever way the children get to meet him or ride in his sleigh. No…just a sprinkle of red glitter. Digitally produced illustration are bright and cheery, with cute kids and amusing details, but sharp-eyed readers will notice the decorated Christmas tree in the living room is inexplicably placed in four different locations on different pages.

Maybe these kids should try babysitting Santa. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-49839-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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