A charming Christmas book for all ages.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

In this lovingly packaged illustrated children’s book, everyone has been naughty this year, and Santa is ready to exchange toys for coal, until a very good and wise little girl named Molly sets him straight.

At home in the North Pole, Santa is distressed to learn from one of his elves that the world’s children, from “Alice in Dallas” to “Pio in Rio,” have been unusually bad this year. No presents this year, he decrees, ordering the elf to load the sleigh with coal. “This Christmas I’ll bring them the thing they deserve!” Readers will probably find this uncharacteristically harsh, and so does Molly, who encounters Santa on her hearth as a frowning “stranger in black” (he’s covered with ash). He softens when he realizes that Molly is one of the few “good” children on his list, so much so that he’s willing to be reminded by her that Christmas “marks the birth of a glorious child” who “taught us it’s best if we learn to forgive!” As the story ends, Molly and Santa, along with Molly’s mouse, Nibbles, drive off in the sleigh together to deliver presents. Thach’s book, his first, is a Christian allegory, with Molly’s gentle faith in her fellow children amending Santa’s Old Testament–inspired sense of crime and punishment. (Nibbles’ role is somewhat more difficult to parse.) But the overtly religious content is minimal, and the rhyming text—with the same meter and opening words as “A Visit from St. Nicholas”—is enjoyable and generally not preachy. A glossary in the back explains some of the more poetic words scattered throughout the author’s verse—e.g., “abode,” “espy” and “wrath.” The book’s production values are high, with a red and gold velvet binding and lush, full-color illustrations by Bernal (Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery, 2010, etc.). Bernal’s palette can be a bit oversaturated, but otherwise, his warm illustrations have much the same appeal as Norman Rockwell’s and Fred Mizen’s iconic paintings of Santa. A two-page spread showing Molly, on one page, looking up at Santa beseechingly, and Santa, on the other, glowering downward, is particularly well-done.

A charming Christmas book for all ages.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9825663-1-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bowrider Press LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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