THE LITTLE BELL THAT WOULDN'T RING

A CHRISTMAS STORY

A Swiss import with a Christmastime message for the whole world.

A church with a bell tower stands in a cozy town square, and in that tower are four bells that “were very, very old. Except for the smallest one, which was new.” The old bells ring out their songs, but as anticipated by the title, the little bell won’t ring. A dove named Felidia wants to encourage the bell to ring, and a wise old crow tells her that “nice words always help.” But which nice words will move the little bell to ring? Felidia and other birds chirp, “Morning sun” and “Cake crumbs!” and even try “Christmas pudding, fairy tale, chocolate, snowflake,” but none of these nice words provoke chiming. Birds fly around the world learning to say “Merry Christmas” in different European languages, but this doesn’t work; nor do the names of various cheeses listed by a group of mice, nor the words “I love you,” learned from a young couple who appear White (as do all other depicted people). On Christmas Eve, stillness descends, and text describes “a tiny light…crossing the sky.” Unfortunately, the art doesn’t clearly show this “light from Bethlehem [that] goes all around the world with a message of peace.” (Also unfortunate is the low-contrast placement of black text on evening-blue sky.) Nevertheless, this message of peace finally inspires the bell to ring, delivering a satisfying conclusion to the tale.

Nice words, indeed. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4386-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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