THE CHRISTMAS PROMISE

Intense, expressionistic illustrations give this spare tale of a Depression-era hobo and his daughter unusual depth of feeling. Riding the rails as late autumn turns to winter, searching for “someplace good,” the two pass through hobo jungles, soup kitchens, and a town jail. At last, a scratched hobo symbol for “kind lady” prompts them to stop at a house with a Christmas tree shining in its window. The lady there is kind indeed: “ ‘This is someplace good for you,’ ” says Poppa to the young narrator, promising to return as soon as he finds work. Christiana’s (The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat, p. 1120, etc.) art is quite astounding here, filling oversized pages with haunting images. Bleak blues and grays in the early spreads give way to warmer browns and reds as the holiday draws near, but the red-haired child remains downcast, surrounded by blocky, mottled backgrounds and insubstantial-looking figures—until the end, that is, when Poppa reappears, gifts in hand, just “before the first Christmas star came out.” A first-class heartwarmer, as poignant and joyful as Eve Bunting’s December (1997) or any of Cynthia Rylant’s holiday stories and made extra special by Christiana’s powerful illustrations. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-98451-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2001

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A PLUMP AND PERKY TURKEY

The leaves have changed, Thanksgiving nears—and the canny turkeys of Squawk Valley have decamped, leaving local residents to face the prospect of a birdless holiday. What to do? They decide to lure a bird back by appealing to its vanity, placing a want ad for a model to help sculptors creating turkey art, then “inviting” the bird to dinner. The ploy works, too, for out of the woods struts plump and perky Pete to take on the job. Shelly debuts with brightly hued cartoon scenes featuring pop-eyed country folk and deceptively silly-looking gobblers. Pete may be vain, but he hasn’t lost the wiliness of his wild ancestors; when the townsfolk come for him, he hides amidst a flock of sculpted gobblers—“There were turkeys made of spuds, / there were turkeys made of rope. / There were turkeys made of paper, / there were turkeys made of soap. / The room was full of turkeys / in a wall to wall collage. / For a clever bird like Pete / it was perfect camouflage.” He makes his escape, and is last seen lounging on a turkey-filled tropical beach as the disappointed Squawk Valleyites gather round the table for a main course of . . . shredded wheat. Good for a few giggles. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-890817-91-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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THE UGLY PUMPKIN

A club-shaped pumpkin gets dissed by a customer, all the other pumpkins, even twisted apple trees, before the sight of a motley crop of hubbards, acorns and banana squash brings on a personal epiphany: “O my gosh / I’m a squash.” Endowed with a face and stick limbs, the gnarled narrator sits down at a Thanksgiving table with its new soulmates, then is last seen strolling down the lane hand in hand with a lumpy new friend. Written in doggerel—“A skeleton came for pumpkins / one bright and crispy day. / I asked if I could get a ride . . . / He laughed and said: No Way”—and illustrated in brightly colored paint-and-paper collage, this weak riff on the “Ugly Duckling” may not earn high marks for botanical accuracy (all pumpkins are squash), but it does feature plenty of visual flash. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-24267-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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