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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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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