Well-meant but heavy-handed.

THE LEGEND OF THE EASTER ROBIN

AN EASTER STORY OF COMPASSION AND FAITH

A Pennsylvania Dutch folk tale about the origin of the robin’s red breast is woven into a story of a girl and her grandmother preparing for Easter together.

This interpretation offers new illustrations for a work that was originally published as The Story of the Easter Robin and illustrated by Anna Vojtech (2010). The cheery, new cover shows a little blonde white girl and her appealing dog gazing out a window at a robin’s nest with five eggs (though the text clearly specifies four eggs). Tressa and her grandmother watch as a pair of robins builds a nest right outside their window in the days before Easter. Tressa worries about the safety of the eggs, and her grandmother reassures her repeatedly that God will take care of the robins. They make bird decorations from dyed eggs, and Gran tells Tressa a legend about robins and why their breasts are red. At the crucifixion of Jesus, a robin pulled a thorn out of Jesus’ forehead, and a drop of blood stained the bird’s breast. The illustrations of the girl and the grandmother are cheerful and contemporary, but the depictions of the robin at the crucifixion shift to a dark sepia palette with frightening overtones. Jesus is shown carrying the cross, wearing the crown of thorns, and a menacing hand with a whip strikes out at both Jesus and the robin. (Birders will quibble that the robin depicted in the crucifixion story is American, a geographical impossibility.) The relatively lengthy text veers from chipper to lugubrious, with a preachy tone overall.  

Well-meant but heavy-handed. (author’s note) (Religion/picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-310-74964-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Not enough tricks to make this a treat.

HOW TO CATCH A WITCH

Another holiday title (How To Catch the Easter Bunny by Adam Wallace, illustrated by Elkerton, 2017) sticks to the popular series’ formula.

Rhyming four-line verses describe seven intrepid trick-or-treaters’ efforts to capture the witch haunting their Halloween. Rhyming roadblocks with toolbox is an acceptable stretch, but too often too many words or syllables in the lines throw off the cadence. Children familiar with earlier titles will recognize the traps set by the costume-clad kids—a pulley and box snare, a “Tunnel of Tricks.” Eventually they accept her invitation to “floss, bump, and boogie,” concluding “the dance party had hit the finale at last, / each dancing monster started to cheer! / There’s no doubt about it, we have to admit: / This witch threw the party of the year!” The kids are diverse, and their costumes are fanciful rather than scary—a unicorn, a dragon, a scarecrow, a red-haired child in a lab coat and bow tie, a wizard, and two space creatures. The monsters, goblins, ghosts, and jack-o'-lanterns, backgrounded by a turquoise and purple night sky, are sufficiently eerie. Still, there isn’t enough originality here to entice any but the most ardent fans of Halloween or the series. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Not enough tricks to make this a treat. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72821-035-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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