What’s meant to be a cultural celebration is, alas, culturally inaccurate.

THE PIÑATA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN HUNG

What’s a birthday without a piñata?

A young girl’s family, along with some talented farm animals, get cracking as soon as she leaves for the market. To the traditional rhythms of “The House that Jack Built,” clay is gathered, water hauled, paper shredded, etc., until all is ready for the celebration. The girl and the code-switching rhyming scheme from Vamos’ The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred (illustrated by Rafael López, 2011) return for more Spanish vocabulary reinforcement. The inclusion of Oaxacan alebrijes indicates the setting is Mexico. As such, it’s puzzling as to why “pasta” is used for the glue paste instead of the correct piñata-making term: “engrudo.” The European term “farm maiden” is also incongruous to the setting. Barcelona-based Serra’s inaccurate illustrations further the sense of inauthenticity. The characters present as Spaniards and not Mexicans, as evidenced by clothing and hats. Plain wood carvings are substituted for the fantastical alebrijes referenced in the text. Papel picado banners are depicted as pennants instead of rectangles. His piñata seems to have clay points rather than cardboard. Even the “brilliant bluebells” the caballo picks are European rather than Mexican. To add insult to injury, the glossary includes Anglicized pronunciations: “sor-PRAY-sah” instead of sor-PREH-sah for “surprise.” Such lighthearted touches as the cat ferociously shredding paper cannot mitigate the book’s flaws.

What’s meant to be a cultural celebration is, alas, culturally inaccurate. (piñata instructions, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58089-796-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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