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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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging.

ISLANDBORN

A young girl’s homework assignment unravels the history and beauty of her homeland.

Lola and her classmates are assigned to draw pictures of their respective origin countries. With excitement, the others begin sharing what they will draw: pyramids, a long canal, a mongoose. Lola, concerned, doesn’t remember what life was like on the Island, and so she recruits her whole neighborhood. There is Leticia, her cousin; Mrs. Bernard, who sells the crispy empanadas; Leticia’s brother Jhonathan, a barber; her mother; her abuela; and their gruff building superintendent. With every description, Lola learns something new: about the Island’s large bats, mangoes, colorful people, music and dancing everywhere, the beaches and sea life, and devastating hurricanes. Espinosa’s fine, vibrant illustrations dress the story in colorful cacophony and play with texture (hair especially) as Lola conjures images of her homeland. While the story does not identify the Island by name, readers familiar with Díaz’s repertoire will instantly identify it as the Dominican Republic, a conclusion that’s supported when the super recalls the Monster (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo), and sharp-eyed readers should look at the magnets on Lola’s refrigerator. Lola, Teresa Mlawer’s translation, is just as poignant as the original.

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2986-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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