INTO THE SNOW

A child narrates a day spent playing in the snow in this collaboration between a Japanese-American author and Japanese illustrator.

From the very first sentence—“It’s snowing!”—Kaneko nails the unbridled excitement of a preschooler who wakes up to snowfall. Saito captures the child from the rear, his smudgy illustration offering readers a view dominated by one spectacular case of bed head, hair spiking every which way in a visual reinforcement of the child’s glee. Per Mommy’s instruction (“bundle up and have fun”), the child plunges into the snow with a yellow plastic sled. Each declarative sentence encapsulates the child’s simple, unfeigned wonder: “The snow is light and fluffy”; “Look! I’ve found an icicle.” The child weathers an unexpected spin on the sled but proclaims, “I’m all right.” The wind picks up; the child goes back inside for a cup of hot chocolate with Mommy. Working with oil pastels, gouache, acrylics, and colored pencil, Saito creates tableaux characterized by thick, soft lines, comfortably rounded shapes, and warm colors—there’s hardly a hint of black or gray, and soft blobs of pink suggest cherry blossoms, further sweetening the mood. This child is not Peter on an urban odyssey; the adventure appears to take place entirely within the confines of the child’s backyard. Though Mommy is nearby, she gives the child, who has recognizably East Asian features, space for delicious independence.

Thrillingly cozy. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59270-188-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Like marshmallow on top of caramel.

I LOVE YOU MORE THAN CHRISTMAS

Little Bear loves everything about Christmas, but there’s one thing he loves even more.

The Bear household is busily getting ready for Christmas. Mommy Bear wraps and bakes; Daddy Bear brings home a humongous tree; Little Bear exults in it all. With each new Christmas tradition that’s introduced, from opening Christmas cards to receiving carolers, Little Bear sings a song that celebrates it. “I love ornaments, and garland, and lights on a string, / candy canes, stockings—and all of the things / that make Christmas perfect—oh, yes, I do! / But the thing that I love more than Christmas is—” But before Little Bear can complete his rhyme, each time he is interrupted by a new element of Christmas to celebrate. Since that terminal rhyme is always set up with one that ends with an “oo” sound, readers will not be surprised in the least when Mommy and Daddy interrupt him one last time with an emphatic “YOU!” It’s all so uber-idealized readers may find themselves gagging on the syrup—it even seems to get at Hattie: Daddy Bear’s smug “What an exceedingly talented family we are” has a whiff of irony to it. Warnes’ cartoon bears inhabit a cozy, middle-class home; while the carolers are clothed, the Bear family is not, but readers may notice a white marking on Mommy Bear’s chest where a string of pearls might rest.

Like marshmallow on top of caramel. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-208-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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