A tender tale worth adding to your holiday library.




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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In contrast to the carbs and desserts pictured, though sweet, this is unlikely to stick with readers.


A romance for carb (and pun!) lovers who dance to their own drummers and don’t give up on their dreams.

Bagel is a guy who loves to dance; when he’s tapping and twirling, he doesn’t feel plain. The problem is, he can’t find a partner for the Cherry Jubilee Dance Contest. Poppy says his steps are half-baked. Pretzel, “who was at the spa getting a salt rub…told him his moves didn’t cut the mustard.” He strikes out in Sweet City, too, with Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake. But just when he’s given up, he hears the music from the contest and can’t help moving his feet. And an echoing tap comes back to him. Could it be a partner at last? Yep, and she just happens to smell sweet and have frosting piled high. Bagel and Cupcake crush the contest, but winning the trophy? That “was just icing on the cake,” as the final sentence reads, the two standing proudly with a blue ribbon and trophy, hearts filling the space above and between them. Dardik’s digital illustrations are pastel confections. Sometimes just the characters’ heads are the treats, and other times the whole body is the foodstuff, with tiny arms and legs added on. Even the buildings are like something from “Hansel and Gretel.” However, this pun-filled narrative is just one of many of its ilk, good for a few yuks but without much staying power.

In contrast to the carbs and desserts pictured, though sweet, this is unlikely to stick with readers. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2239-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.


A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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