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The Secret Snowflake

A CHRISTMAS STORY

A story that may be most successful as a spirited, animated read-aloud.

In this debut picture book, a special child must be found in order to save Christmas.

Each year at 4:31 a.m. on Christmas morning, after Santa Claus has delivered gifts and returned to the North Pole, the Secret Snowflake shines “golden rays of Christmas Spirit” into the hearts of those who “believe in the magic of Christmas.” However, the snowflake’s source of power lessens every year. To restore its strength, a noble child of “pure heart” must be identified and brought to the snowflake’s location, so that the child may make a wish upon it. Three types of “mythical snow creatures” protect the Secret Snowflake, each endowed with special powers. The Spirit Seekers, who discover and transport the child, are described as musical “snowflake fairies” who chant in rhymes and sing in high-pitched voices. One of them is underdog Gossamer, a Spirit Seeker whose delicate wings impede her ability to sing high and clear, thereby preventing her from calling for help when threatened by Joy Robbers, who want the Secret Snowflake to weaken and die. Gossamer flies to Meriden, Connecticut, where she discovers a pure, noble boy named Eddie. He makes her wings stronger with his breath, thus rendering her voice more powerful. With the help of Eddie and other creatures, Gossamer makes a successful trip to the Secret Snowflake, waging a great battle along the way. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to ascertain the appropriate audience for this book; the story contains a level of abstraction that younger children may not be able to fully grasp, as well as a large cast of characters and a complex storyline. There’s also far too much reliance on exposition, particularly in the first few pages, which don’t quickly hook readers with action and dialogue. The amount of text on each page is substantial and some young readers may find this daunting. Some of the illustrations, however, are lovely and colorful, and nicely support the text. The story ends on a strong note: Eddie’s wish is unexpectedly wise, and there’s a final, delightful, and surprising twist.

A story that may be most successful as a spirited, animated read-aloud.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4602-7017-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

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TALES FOR VERY PICKY EATERS

Broccoli: No way is James going to eat broccoli. “It’s disgusting,” says James. Well then, James, says his father, let’s consider the alternatives: some wormy dirt, perhaps, some stinky socks, some pre-chewed gum? James reconsiders the broccoli, but—milk? “Blech,” says James. Right, says his father, who needs strong bones? You’ll be great at hide-and-seek, though not so great at baseball and kickball and even tickling the dog’s belly. James takes a mouthful. So it goes through lumpy oatmeal, mushroom lasagna and slimy eggs, with James’ father parrying his son’s every picky thrust. And it is fun, because the father’s retorts are so outlandish: the lasagna-making troll in the basement who will be sent back to the rat circus, there to endure the rodent’s vicious bites; the uneaten oatmeal that will grow and grow and probably devour the dog that the boy won’t be able to tickle any longer since his bones are so rubbery. Schneider’s watercolors catch the mood of gentle ribbing, the looks of bewilderment and surrender and the deadpanned malarkey. It all makes James’ father’s last urging—“I was just going to say that you might like them if you tried them”—wholly fresh and unexpected advice. (Early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-14956-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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CINDERELLA

From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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