A nicely paced, visually fresh read-aloud treat celebrating friendship.

SNOWFLAKE IN MY POCKET

A snowy day transforms the world for a young squirrel longing to share the experience with his best friend.

Wise and seasoned Bear lives with young Squirrel in an old oak. When they explore the forest together, Bear experiences everything “new again with Squirrel by his side.” One icy night, Bear warns of snow. When Squirrel wakes up, he scrapes a hole in the frosty window, revealing the snowy world outside. Bear has a cold so Squirrel ventures outdoors alone to “have fun for both of them.” All seems perfect as Squirrel crunches, runs, and rolls in the fresh snow, excitedly making snow angels and snow bears, but he misses Bear and catches a snowflake to bring home. Alas, the snowflake melts in Squirrel’s pocket, prompting Bear to sagely remind Squirrel, “snow comes and snow goes” but their friendship will last. Using simple, brightly colored, cut-paper forms enhanced with delicate pencil etchings, the engaging illustrations neatly contrast the snowy outdoors with the homey indoors. A circle motif (Bear’s and Squirrel’s round heads, round cameo scenes, round moon, round snowflakes, and a round cutout window providing a peek-through experience) reinforce the circle of friendship. Onomatopoeic phrases such as “splosh-splish” and “thumpety-thud” as well as intriguing pencil details beg readers’ participation.

A nicely paced, visually fresh read-aloud treat celebrating friendship. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61067-551-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

HOW TO CATCH AN ELF

From the How To Catch… series

Wallace and Elkerton continue their series about catching elusive mythical creatures (How to Catch a Leprechaun, 2016, etc.) with this Christmas story about an elf who must avoid traps constructed by children before Santa’s annual visit.

The unnamed elf narrator is the sole helper traveling with Santa on his delivery rounds on Christmas Eve, with each house featuring a different type of trap for elves. The spunky elf avoids a mechanical “elf snatcher,” hidden in a plate of cookies, as well as simple traps made of tinsel, double-sided tape, and a cardboard box concealing a mean-looking cat. Another trap looks like a bomb hidden in a box of candy, and a complicated trap in a maze has an evil cowboy clown with a branding iron, leading to the elf’s cry, “Hey, you zapped my tushy!” The bomb trap and the branding iron seem to push the envelope of child-made inventions. The final trap is located in a family grocery store that’s booby-trapped with a “Dinner Cannon” shooting out food, including a final pizza that the elf and Santa share. The singsong, rhyming text has a forced cheeriness, full of golly-jolly-holly Christmas spirit and too many exclamation marks, as well as rhyming word pairs that miss the mark. (No, little elf-boy, “smarter” and “harder” do not rhyme.) Bold, busy illustrations in a cartoon style have a cheeky appeal with a focus on the freckle-faced white elf with auburn curls and a costume with a retro vibe. (Santa is also white.)

A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4631-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2016

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