WAS THAT CHRISTMAS?

A three-year-old girl named Bella is confused about the actual timing of Christmas in this British import from McKay (Saffy’s Angel, p. 661, etc.). The story begins by introducing Bella and her cat, Black Jack, who have grown together from their first Christmas when they were babies and didn’t understand Christmas at all. Now Bella attends a preschool, where she plays the part of a shepherd in the Nativity play and Black Jack plays the part of her lamb. After Santa visits the preschool, Bella mistakenly thinks that Christmas is over and that she and Black Jack have missed receiving their presents. Her mother, father, and grandmother each patiently list all the holiday tasks and pleasures that must be experienced before Christmas will be all over. Many of their traditions are British ones that are different from those in the US (Christmas crackers, mince pies, sausage rolls, tea for Santa), and some of Bella’s expressions (“Is it Christmas at last?”) are distinctly British, though their location is never specified. Still, it’s nice to find true Britishisms in a text for American readers. Soft, expressive watercolor illustrations are pleasant additions, though their pastel palette and old-fashioned feeling, along with Bella’s young age, make the story seem more intended for toddlers than the longer text would indicate. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84765-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery.

FIVE BLACK CATS

A troop of cats traverse a spooky landscape as they make their way to a party hosted by ghosts.

Each double-page spread shows the felines’ encounters with the likes of an owl, jack-o’-lanterns or a bat. One or two of these creepy meetings may be too abstract for the youngest readers, as the cats hear eerie noises with no discernible source on the page. The text, which consists of one rhyming couplet per scene, mostly scans despite a couple of wobbles: “Five black cats get a bit of a scare / As the flip-flapping wings of a bat fill the air.” The sleek, slightly retro art, likely created using a computer, depicts the cats cavorting at night through a shadowy cityscape, the countryside and a haunted house; they may scare some toddlers and delight others. A brighter color palette would have given the project a friendlier, more universal appeal. Luckily, the well-lit, final party scene provides a playful conclusion.

For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58925-611-8

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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