This unusual if culturally hegemonic Christmas story will appeal to kids interested in ninjas and samurais and, of course,...

SAMURAI SANTA

A VERY NINJA CHRISTMAS

A mischievous little ninja scares Santa away and then receives an unexpected gift in the form of a huge snowball fight.

The young ninja, Yukio, wants to stage a snowball battle on Christmas Eve, but all the other ninjas are staying home and behaving so they will receive their presents from Santa. Yukio doesn’t care about presents, so he uses ninja tactics to sneak up on Santa and startle him by ringing a huge, noisy gong and rallying the other ninjas to scare away the intruder. When a mysterious samurai arrives with an army of snowmen, all the little ninjas do battle with the snowmen in an “epic snowball fight,” just as Yukio had wanted, though the samurai disappears. On Christmas morning Yukio is worried that he has ruined Christmas for all the other ninjas, but everyone gets Christmas gifts from Santa. Yukio receives a snowman’s hat and carrot nose and a letter from Samurai Santa indicating that the snowman battle was his special gift. Computer-generated illustrations use a limited palette of black, red, white, and soft gray, with the text set in a casual, modern typeface. A large format with landscape orientation provides plenty of room for the ninja-snowman battle scenes and the resolution on Christmas morning. The text never addresses the question of how these feudal Japanese assassins came to believe in Santa in the first place.

This unusual if culturally hegemonic Christmas story will appeal to kids interested in ninjas and samurais and, of course, to any kids who like an epic snowball fight. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3057-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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