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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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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