Ai ya—not the happiest New Year tale.

THE NIAN MONSTER

A little girl in Shanghai outwits a Lunar New Year monster.

Xingling is grocery shopping with her grandmother days before the Chinese New Year festivities are to begin. Curious about all the red decorations, she learns that once upon a time there was a very hungry monster who threatened villages. The monster, fortunately, had three fears—“loud sounds, fire, and the color red”—and the Chinese learned how to keep safe from it. Unfortunately, the monster, named Nian, soon appears in Shanghai very hungry and very unperturbed by ancient customs. Xingling cleverly finds three new, traditional means to defeat Nian: a bowl containing “the longest noodle in China” (which sends him snoozing), bony milkfish (which hurts his throat), and a rice cake made with very sticky rice (which glues his jaws together). Wang brings together traditional storytelling elements in her tale—three tasks and repetition of phrases—in this contemporary setting of a Chinese New Year story. However, the writing is pedestrian and will not hold up to multiple readings. The explanation that “nian” means either “year” or “sticky” comes only in the author’s note. Chau’s artwork is colorful but very busy; Xingling is drawn with giant, manga-style eyes, though the other Chinese characters have simple ink-dot eyes. Also, there is no mention of which year of the 12-year cycle is being celebrated.

Ai ya—not the happiest New Year tale. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5642-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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This bunny escapes all the traps but fails to find a logical plot or an emotional connection with readers.

HOW TO CATCH THE EASTER BUNNY

From the How to Catch… series

The bestselling series (How to Catch an Elf, 2016, etc.) about capturing mythical creatures continues with a story about various ways to catch the Easter Bunny as it makes its annual deliveries.

The bunny narrates its own story in rhyming text, beginning with an introduction at its office in a manufacturing facility that creates Easter eggs and candy. The rabbit then abruptly takes off on its delivery route with a tiny basket of eggs strapped to its back, immediately encountering a trap with carrots and a box propped up with a stick. The narrative focuses on how the Easter Bunny avoids increasingly complex traps set up to catch him with no explanation as to who has set the traps or why. These traps include an underground tunnel, a fluorescent dance floor with a hidden pit of carrots, a robot bunny, pirates on an island, and a cannon that shoots candy fish, as well as some sort of locked, hazardous site with radiation danger. Readers of previous books in the series will understand the premise, but others will be confused by the rabbit’s frenetic escapades. Cartoon-style illustrations have a 1960s vibe, with a slightly scary, bow-tied bunny with chartreuse eyes and a glowing palette of neon shades that shout for attention.

This bunny escapes all the traps but fails to find a logical plot or an emotional connection with readers. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3817-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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