Gorgeous illustrations make this one sure to fly off shelves “like the down of a thistle.” (Picture book. 3-8)

DASHER

HOW A BRAVE LITTLE DOE CHANGED CHRISTMAS FOREVER

An origin story for Santa’s “eight tiny reindeer.”

Nearly two centuries after “A Visit From St. Nicholas” originated Santa Claus’ “coursers” and “called them by name,” Tavares offers readers their backstory, centered on “a brave young doe named Dasher.” First, the frontmatter notes “a time…when Santa’s sleigh was pulled…by a single horse, named Silverbell.” Ensuing pages depict not a wintry scene of Santa and Silverbell but a parched landscape with a crowd of people peering at penned reindeer as part of the cruel J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie. Illustrated details in clothing and material culture suggest a 19th-century American setting, but the focus is on the animals’ cramped misery. Though kind children provide solace through carrots and smiles, Dasher’s main comfort comes from her mother’s stories of a northern homeland with “crisp, cold air and cool blankets of white snow.” One windy night, the pen’s gate blows open and Dasher escapes. While following the North Star, she encounters Santa (depicted as a white-bearded white man) and a weary Silverbell and offers to help pull the sleigh. Tavares’ art is at its best in such magical scenes, which fairly beg to be made into Christmas cards, but the storytelling falters due to the ease with which the other reindeer escape when Santa grants Dasher her “best wish yet” and rescues her family.

Gorgeous illustrations make this one sure to fly off shelves “like the down of a thistle.” (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0137-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 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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