An uneven effort that reflects a lack of understanding of the intended audience.

THE CHRISTMAS HORSE AND THE THREE WISE MEN

The journey of the three Magi on their travels to the birthplace of Jesus is recounted from the point of view of a horse.

The majestic, white horse named Safanad is owned by the wise man named Melchior, who is depicted as an elderly Asian man. The other wise men are Caspar, who rides a camel, and Balthazar, who rides an elephant. Both Caspar and Balthazar have brown skin. The three men and their animals follow a star of “dazzling brilliance” on a difficult journey before finally arriving at the stable with a baby in a manger. The wise men present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, with Safanad the horse symbolically kneeling next to a lamb, a symbol of Jesus. Relevant verses from the King James Version of the Bible are set in gold type at the beginning and ending of the story, with Safanad’s narration creating a fictional version of the arduous travels. The horse as narrator doesn’t work well, as the text is too complex for an equine point of view. The illustrations are uneven; while smaller illustrations within patterned borders and detailed depictions of the three wise men are quite appealing, many of the larger illustrations appear crudely done. An author’s note explains more about the wise men and the historical sources.

An uneven effort that reflects a lack of understanding of the intended audience. (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937786-61-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Wisdom Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Kid-friendly dark humor.

POULTRYGEIST

The chicken crosses the road…and arrives on the other side as a ghost.

The action kicks off before the title page when the chicken crossing the road winds up a splatter of feathers against the grille of a tractor trailer. When its ghost rises from the squished remains, it meets a host of other animal ghosts that encourage the new poultrygeist to start getting scary. They probably didn’t realize, however, that they’d be the ones to be frightened. Geron’s text is full of punny lines like “It’s time to get foul, fowl!” and “Ghosts of a feather haunt together!” Midway through, the poultrygeist turns to readers to make sure they’re not too scared. This is a nice touch, maintaining engagement while also giving more timid readers time to take a beat. Oswald’s illustrations display masterful use of color, with bright, ghostly animals against a dark, often all-black background, the dialogue shown in colors that correspond to the speakers. These ghosts do become scary but not enough to completely terrorize readers. Oswald’s skill is seen in full effect, as readers witness only the animal ghosts’ reactions to the poultrygeist’s scariest face, building suspense for the full reveal. This book is just right for kids easing into the slightly scary and macabre but who still want a safe and fun read.

Kid-friendly dark humor. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1050-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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