Not a top pick for the giving.

IF I COULD GIVE YOU CHRISTMAS

A reflection on the intangible gifts of the Christmas season.

In a series of spreads depicting anthropomorphic animal parents and their young, simple lines of text starting with the titular line “If I could give you Christmas” lead into statements evoking small pleasures associated with wintertime or the Yuletide season. “If I could give you Christmas, it would taste like the first falling snowflake,” reads the first spread, for example, and a full-bleed digital illustration shows a lynx holding its kitten up in the air to catch a snowflake on its protruding tongue. Later spreads show various animals receiving “the freshest, pointiest, piney-est tree” or “sharing the brightest twinkling star.” Missed opportunities to link these tableaux visually undermine any sense of cohesion, resulting in a book that could have its pages rearranged with no discernable impact on its contents. The concluding lines shift the address to read, “If YOU could give ME Christmas, there’s something you should know…My favorite gift at Christmas… / …doesn’t have a bow,” and there’s a closing image of a bunny and its child hugging. It’s a treacly ending to a sugary sweet book with little substance to distinguish it from scores of other titles on the Christmas book shelf.

Not a top pick for the giving. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-00267-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Likely to be popular with young Pete the Cat fans and parents seeking a gentle introduction to preschool.

PETE THE KITTY'S FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL

From the Pete the Cat series

The popular character enjoys storytime, painting, and a snack on the very first day of preschool.

The younger incarnation of Pete the Cat packs his backpack that he picked out from the store himself, gets a snack from his mom, and rides the school bus with his big brother, Bob (who isn’t much bigger than Pete, sizewise). At school, Pete meets his stylish teacher, Mrs. Lopez, and fellow feline classmates while keeping his signature cool. The day ends with Pete declaring: “Preschool is awesome! Pete loves everything!” James Dean’s big-eyed cats populate the simply drawn scenes that look as though they were painted in preschool-esque fashion with thick swaths of tempera. At a couple of moments (when he eats his banana and declares it tasty and when he sings along) his customarily expressionless face actually breaks into a smile. Kimberly Dean’s text is uninspired, but it’s in sync with the upbeat tone of the series. Pete’s preschool experience, while not particularly realistic, is a highly positive one; refreshingly, there is no trace of the separation anxiety or anxiousness found in many first-day-of-school books.

Likely to be popular with young Pete the Cat fans and parents seeking a gentle introduction to preschool. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06243582-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HarperFestival

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

ANIMAL SHAPES

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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