THE NUTCRACKER

A jolly nutcracker with his mouth wide open waves his sword and flag and seems ready to ride right off the cover in Hague’s version of this Christmas classic. This retelling uses the structure of the original story by Hoffman, retaining the name of Marie for the little girl, and adds some of the familiar elements from the ballet version of the story. Hague’s illustrations in pen and ink, watercolor, and colored pencil set a dark and theatrical mood with deep jewel tones and rich velvet draperies framing several spreads. His Rat King is a fearsome fellow with seven heads and 14 glowing red eyes, but his sweet Sugar Plum Fairy dances with butterfly wings ornamenting her flower-petal costume. This retelling is too long for most preschoolers, but will serve as an introduction to the story or preparation before a performance for school-age children. An author’s note includes the history of the story and how it came to be a ballet. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58717-254-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: SeaStar/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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GOING HOME

From the Caldecott Medal—winning team behind Smoky Night (1994), the story of a migrant family returning to Mexico for the Christmas holidays. Carlos and his sisters are not at all sure that "home" is Mexico, although they were born there. It is difficult for them to understand their parents' enthusiasm for the long journey and for the tiny town of La Perla at the end of it. A tender revelation, when Carlos realizes that his parents left the place they deeply loved to provide their children with "opportunities," ties the tale of the journey to the season, the moment, and the future. Diaz creates an explosion of color in his familiar format of a visual environment that is whole and entire: He designed the eccentric, legible typeface; set the framed illustrations and text blocks on digitally enhanced photographs of flowers, pottery, baskets, and folk art; and filled the pictures with his signature saturated colors in bold, broad planes. These do not bind readers to the tale any more than the words do, hinting at the depth of parental love and sacrifice while distancing children from genuine understanding. An affectionate, but not exceptional offering. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-026296-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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