If plotting stumbles a bit, both concept and illustrations soar.

LITTLE SANTA

When an injury sidelines Santa Claus, his child takes his place.

While the young narrator is proud to have Santa for a dad, it means every Christmas Eve is spent alone. This year, the narrator, a white child of about 10 or 11 in Scandinavian sweater and household slippers, wishes on the first star to spend Christmas Eve with Dad—so when Dad trips and falls readying the sleigh, the child is seized with guilt. Since only family members can work the reindeer, the narrator volunteers. (Santa appears to be a single father, and there are no siblings in evidence.) With respect for Dad increasing at every stop, the child makes the rounds till the sack is empty—but the reindeer stop at one last house, where a young dancer sleeps, a letter to Santa tucked in a stocking. It asks for snow, which the narrator can’t provide, but Santa, who suddenly appears with crutch and bandaged foot, can, and all ends well. While the end of this quiet tale is forced, it still offers a glimpse of Santa’s private life children will likely relish. Maruyama’s illustrations have the look of Marla Frazee’s in The Farmer and the Clown (2014), in both palette and line. Understated humor charms: anxious reindeer peer in the window as the doctor visits; Dad’s suit hangs limply on his much-smaller child.

If plotting stumbles a bit, both concept and illustrations soar. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-988-8341-46-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Sugary uplift, shrink-wrapped for the masses.

HOW TO CATCH A LOVEOSAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

An elusive new quarry leads the How To Catch… kids on a merry chase through a natural history museum.

Taking at least a step away from the “hunters versus prey” vibe of previous entries in the popular series, the racially diverse group of young visitors dashes through various museum halls in pursuit of the eponymous dino—whose quest to “spread kindness and joy ’round the world” takes the form of a mildly tumultuous museum tour. In most of Elkerton’s overly sweet, color-saturated scenes, only portions of the Loveosaurus, who is purple and covered with pink hearts, are visible behind exhibits or lumbering off the page. But the children find small enticements left behind, from craft supplies to make cards for endangered species to pictures of smiley faces, candy heart–style personal notes (“You Rock!” “Give Hugs”), and, in the hall of medieval arms and armor, a sign urging them to “Be Honest Be Kind.” The somewhat heavy-handed lesson comes through loud and clear. “There’s a message, he wants us to think,” hints Walstead to clue in more obtuse readers…and concluding scenes of smiling people young and otherwise exchanging hugs and knuckle bumps, holding doors for a wheelchair rider, and dancing through clouds of sparkles indicate that they, at least, have gotten it. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sugary uplift, shrink-wrapped for the masses. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2022

ISBN: 9781728268781

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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