Diversity in friendships is brought to happy, lively life in this effervescent picture book.

MR. SCRUFF

Sometimes not matching is just right.

Molly, a brown-skinned child with curly hair, has Polly, a curly-haired brown poodle; and jowly dog Lawrence has jowly elderly white lady Florence; each pair is perfectly comfortable together, as well they might, being so similar in looks and name. But then there’s poor Mr. Scruff, a large, unkempt dog at the dog rescue who has no one. That is, until Jim, a small child of color with interracial parents, picks out Mr. Scruff to be his dog. His parents have reservations; “He’s so BIG, / and you’re so small!” but Jim replies that Mr. Scruff “needs a home. / A place to call his very own. /… / And that’s enough for me— / and Mr. Scruff,” in the story’s simple rhyming text. They hit it off. But now who should come into the dog rescue looking for a dog? Unkempt Mr. Gruff, a white man who seems like the perfect match for Mr. Scruff. But like Jim, Mr. Gruff isn’t constrained by the familiar. He picks out a small, brown puppy for his companion, “the perfect / dog for him.” Author/illustrator James does a marvelous job of creating a playful story about the serious idea of stepping outside the familiar in friendships—an idea stupendously amplified with his light-filled watercolor-and-ink illustrations, showing a grand diversity of people in a bustling city setting.

Diversity in friendships is brought to happy, lively life in this effervescent picture book. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0935-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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