A tender tale worth adding to your holiday library.

LUCKY

THE TALE OF A TREE

A young tree experiences the magic, and fleeting nature, of the Christmas season.

Every so often, a life lesson comes along disguised as a children’s book. Former UCLA professor Hawkins’ chronicle of a young tree is just such a tale. “Tree” lives in a forest yearning for adventures outside of his clearing—an existence more thrilling than his own. When a father and son questing for the perfect Christmas tree declare Tree to be “the best one” they’ve seen, Tree’s wish comes true. He is uprooted from his forest and brought to a new home where “Scraggly”—a ragged backyard-dwelling fir—deems Tree “Lucky.” And so Lucky’s new life begins. Despite Scraggly’s cautionary admonitions about Lucky’s newfound fate, the prideful young tree is jubilant. Bedecked in ornaments and tinsel, praised for his perfection and topped with a golden star, Lucky foresees a full, rich life. From here most readers will know where Hawkins’ tale is headed. With the passing of the holiday season comes Lucky’s gradual (at times heart-wrenching) realization that Christmas is fleeting—a parallel to life that’s not lost on the astute reader. What unfolds is a poignant, seamlessly executed reflection on time and mortality that will stir even the most stoic reader. It’s certainly not uncommon for children’s writers to thread their narratives with deeper adult themes, a tactic Hawkins executes with panache; there are no tried clichés, heavy-handed moral overtones or forced attempts to elicit emotion. Adding to the story’s depth is a dedication to Shirley, Hawkins’ late wife who—before losing her battle with cancer—requested that he write this book in honor of a beloved, withering porch tree. Paired with Hoeffner’s meticulous, delicate pencil renderings, Lucky is one promise readers will be glad Hawkins kept.

A tender tale worth adding to your holiday library. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0578090894

Page Count: 39

Publisher: Worldways Productions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and...

THE LITTLE RED PEN

Obviously inspired by "The Little Red Hen," this goes beyond the foundation tale's basic moral about work ethic to explore problem solving, teamwork and doing one’s best.

Nighttime at school brings the Little Red Pen out of the drawer to correct papers, usually aided by other common school supplies. But not this time. Too afraid of being broken, worn out, dull, lost or, worst of all, put in the “Pit of No Return” (aka trash), they hide in the drawer despite the Little Red Pen’s insistence that the world will end if the papers do not get corrected. But even with her drive she cannot do it all herself—her efforts send her to the Pit. It takes the ingenuity and cooperation of every desk supply to accomplish her rescue and to get all the papers graded, thereby saving the world. The authors work in lots of clever wordplay that will appeal to adult readers, as will the spicy character of Chincheta, the Mexican pushpin. Stevens’ delightfully expressive desk supplies were created with paint, ink and plenty of real school supplies. Without a doubt, she has captured their true personalities: the buck-toothed stapler, bespectacled scissors and rather empty-headed eraser.

Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and students may take a second glance at that innocuous-looking red pen on the teacher’s desk. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-15-206432-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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