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

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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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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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