Beautiful to behold but uneven to read.

THE TREE THAT'S MEANT TO BE

O (little) Christmas tree!

Though it’s not as scraggly as the tree Charlie Brown selects in the television special, the little fir tree who narrates this story isn’t like the others in the forest. A scene in springtime reads, “While other trees grew poised and tall, / I lagged behind. / Looking different. / Feeling small.” When humans come to cut down trees to decorate for Christmas, the little fir tree isn’t chosen. It stands, lonesome, surrounded by the stumps of the other fir trees, with bare-branched deciduous trees in the background. In a happy turn, woodland animals hear the tree’s cries and bring “berries, feathers, / nuts, and flowers” to decorate it right where it stands. It’s a joyful, peaceable kingdom of a scene, enlivened with a bit of whimsy when the tree says that “a shooting star dropped down // [and] sank into my branches and shone so pure, / so bright, that I became a tree of light.” Here and throughout, Zommer’s gentle, warm illustrations outshine the text, which falters in its cadence and rhyme. Closing spreads show the tree growing taller, if still a bit crooked and spindly, with birds and forest animals around it. The final spread depicts a child of color and a white child reading books at its base, affirming the act of reading that brought real children to this closing page.

Beautiful to behold but uneven to read. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-11967-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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