Beautiful to behold but uneven to read.

THE TREE THAT'S MEANT TO BE

O (little) Christmas tree!

Though it’s not as scraggly as the tree Charlie Brown selects in the television special, the little fir tree who narrates this story isn’t like the others in the forest. A scene in springtime reads, “While other trees grew poised and tall, / I lagged behind. / Looking different. / Feeling small.” When humans come to cut down trees to decorate for Christmas, the little fir tree isn’t chosen. It stands, lonesome, surrounded by the stumps of the other fir trees, with bare-branched deciduous trees in the background. In a happy turn, woodland animals hear the tree’s cries and bring “berries, feathers, / nuts, and flowers” to decorate it right where it stands. It’s a joyful, peaceable kingdom of a scene, enlivened with a bit of whimsy when the tree says that “a shooting star dropped down // [and] sank into my branches and shone so pure, / so bright, that I became a tree of light.” Here and throughout, Zommer’s gentle, warm illustrations outshine the text, which falters in its cadence and rhyme. Closing spreads show the tree growing taller, if still a bit crooked and spindly, with birds and forest animals around it. The final spread depicts a child of color and a white child reading books at its base, affirming the act of reading that brought real children to this closing page.

Beautiful to behold but uneven to read. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-11967-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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All we want for Christmas is a more coherent story.

THE CHRISTMAS PRINCESS

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MARIAH

Singer Carey, whose “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is in near-constant rotation each holiday season, makes the leap to Christmas picture book with co-author Davis.

Little Mariah lives in a worn, shabby house in a wealthy neighborhood; though poor, she has a kind nature and musical talent—both of which ultimately save her. Taunted by a nasty brother-sister duo who enter her home uninvited, Little Mariah is distracted by snowfall and runs out into the nearby woods. The snow transforms into Snowflake Butterfly Fairies. Following these entrancing visions, she encounters a gang of bullies but, having tripped over a heart-shaped stone, she uses its magical properties for good in a convoluted series of events. The Butterfly Fairy Queen arrives and crowns Little Mariah the Christmas Princess for her “perfectly pure songs from the heart.” Back at Little Mariah’s house, which has been miraculously transformed, Little Mariah performs Carey’s uber-hit Christmas song. Overwritten, overwrought, overlong, and narrated in clunky verse, this holiday story, seemingly inspired by Carey’s early childhood and with “Little Match Girl” and “Cinderella” vibes, rambles while making its trite, albeit well-meaning, point. It will attract attention because of the star power of its co-author; note her empowering foreword. The colorful illustrations are cheery. Wide-eyed, blond-curled Mariah and the Fairy Queen have light-tan skin; Mariah’s mom and several other characters, including the bullying brother and sister, are pale-skinned; the fairies are diverse in skin tone. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

All we want for Christmas is a more coherent story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-83711-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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