A fresh Christmas story interspersed with joyful, age-old holiday traditions.

READ REVIEW

THE TASTE OF SNOW

Through trials and small miracles, a young girl gains a true appreciation for the magic of the holiday season in Masse’s children’s novel.

When 11-year-old Nicole Kinders receives a “magic candy cane” from a local shopkeeper on her way to school at the beginning of the holiday season, she pockets it gingerly but skeptically. However, immediately following the exchange, strange events occur and Nicole can’t get the idea of “magic” out of her head—during a fight on the school bus, when she goes skiing with her sister and the neighbor boys pelt them with golf balls and when she gets so sick that she’s forced to miss an Advent church service. While she stays home in bed and her family is away, an accidental fire burns part of the house. Luckily she manages to escape, but all the close calls inspire her to return to the shopkeeper and demand he take back the candy cane because it isn’t magic after all. He then helps her realize that although bad things have happened, good things have happened as well; her grandparents, uncle and new aunt have come to visit for the holidays and their presence is a kind of magic, too. But Nicole’s greatest test is yet to come, when she ventures out on the snowy slopes by herself one afternoon and is stranded by nightfall. Will the magic of the candy cane be enough to protect her against the elements? The story’s setting, a small village in the Alpine region of Austria, lends itself fabulously to this story in terms of sensory atmosphere and culture. Masse deftly describes the winter chill and the sights and smells of the holiday, while also weaving inspiring tales that demonstrate a deep appreciation for the triumph of the human spirit in a region where people have suffered hardships in the past century. Nicole grows as a character and readers will root for her as she learns to appreciate the blessings in her life and to confront her problems head on. Masse balances realistic harrowing experiences with festive holiday cheer and the result is a satisfying Christmastime novel.

A fresh Christmas story interspersed with joyful, age-old holiday traditions.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0979963810

Page Count: 207

Publisher: Good Harbor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Light, friendly, and not at all preachy—a gentle win for a kinder world.

ABCS OF KINDNESS

Rhyming couplets use the alphabet to simply explain the abstract concept of kindness.

Each letter of the alphabet stands for a word that adds nuance to the notion while line drawings of pink-cheeked stuffed animals—bear, bunny, elephant, mouse, lion, and giraffe—illustrate the behavior. The verses hint at exactly how to act kindly. Some are concrete: “Ii is for inviting everyone to play.” Some suggest attitudes that facilitate kindness. For example, “Bb is for believing things will be okay in the end!” and “Hh is for hope—tomorrow’s another day!” While many might take issue with the simplistic assertion that “Ee is for everyone—we are all the same,” taken as a whole, the book will lead even the youngest toddlers to the message. Organizationally, the book devotes one page each to 11 letters while 14 others share pages. “Zz is sleeping peacefully when your day of kindness is through” sprawls across a final double-page spread, showing all the animals fast asleep. Creating an ABC book is harder than this makes it look. The true test is what is chosen to represent Q, X, Y, and Z. “Quiet times,” “Yes I can,” and the aforementioned “zzz”s ably rise to the challenge. “Xx is for kisses” is a bit of a stretch but understandable. Pastel backgrounds, uncluttered design, and unforced rhymes keep the focus on the concept.

Light, friendly, and not at all preachy—a gentle win for a kinder world. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12307-2

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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