Grandpa’s touching words about the meaning of Christmas and Penguin’s sweet presents of sticks add depth to this unassuming...

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PENGUIN'S CHRISTMAS WISH

Cheerful little Penguin continues to expand his world with a story about celebrating Christmas with friends and family.

On Christmas Eve, Penguin, little brother Pumpkin, friend Bootsy, and Grandpa pack up ornaments, Christmas lights, and presents and set out in search of a Christmas tree. They decorate Penguin’s first pal, Pinecone, as their tree, but during the night a blizzard blows everything away. Penguin improvises presents from sticks, and the group has a fine Christmas day. By nighttime, they realize the decorations and presents are stuck in nearby trees in the forest, and other animals arrive for a larger celebration with multiple Christmas trees. Yoon’s distinctive illustrations use simple shapes, bold colors, and thick, black outlines to delineate the characters against snowy backgrounds. Each penguin has a distinguishing characteristic (hat, scarf, or hair bow) to help children keep the characters straight. The spread with many trees sharing the decorations is a little hard to decode at first, as it is illustrated from an overhead perspective, and it’s hard to tell that the green circles with white streaks are evergreen trees with snow on the branches. But understanding different perspectives is part of visual literacy, and the final spread shows the trees from a more conventional side view.

Grandpa’s touching words about the meaning of Christmas and Penguin’s sweet presents of sticks add depth to this unassuming but satisfying story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-155-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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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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