Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears.

JAN BRETT'S THE NUTCRACKER

Brett applies her signature visual storytelling style to the Christmas favorite.

By setting her tale in a snowy, 19th-century Russian city and including in her trademark marginal vignettes both golden musical staves crowded with notes and animal instrumentalists clad in traditional Russian attire, Brett situates this retelling in Tchaikovsky’s ballet rather than Hoffman’s original story, though she retains Hoffman’s names. And as the ballet does, Brett crams her stage with characters, beginning with the Christmas party when Drosselmeier presents Marie with the Nutcracker and continuing through the battle with the Mouse King to Marie and the Nutcracker’s visit to what is here called the land of the Snow Princess. Once there, anthropomorphic Russian animals replace the ethnically stereotyped sweets of the ballet, with arctic foxes, flying squirrels, and hedgehogs taking turns in a snowy wonderland. Like the plot of the ballet, not much makes sense under close examination; unlike the ballet, Brett’s figures display very little movement, so hemmed in are they. Even compositions with relatively few figures feel crowded with decorative detail and superfluous tiny animals, so much so that readers may need to work hard to parse meaning. Despite its adherence to the plot of the ballet, this is not a particularly good preparation for it, but readers already familiar with it may enjoy taking in Brett’s vision. All human characters present White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10982-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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