HOW TO TRICK A CHRISTMAS ELF

Some advice for pulling the wool over Santa’s helpers’ eyes.

While the trademarked Elf on the Shelf isn’t explicitly mentioned, its all-seeing power is clearly referenced in this story about helping children stay off Santa’s naughty list. Worried kids with a range of skin tones and hair colors are addressed by the text, which asks, “what if you could trick [the elf] so that you can sneak a look? Maybe you can change his mind…and what goes in his book!” Elf distraction is the goal, and the rhyming couplets say that the best way to divert an elf’s attention is to “construct a tiny Christmas sleigh that only he could fly.” Subsequent spreads give step-by-step instructions and materials suggestions for the project, ultimately providing a guide for readers to build their own sleighs to distract the elves that spy from their shelves. In a twist at the end, the elf is so delighted by the sleigh that he rewards the children by affirming that they are on the nice list. A letter addressed to them, not a list after all, provides this affirmation, but it also could be read as suggesting bribery as a good strategy for niceness. This stance undermines the culminating message that “giving from your heart…[is] what good people do” since the children clearly had ulterior motives for their sleigh building.

Not very nice. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5107-4430-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.

HARDLY HAUNTED

What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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