THE CHRISTMAS RAT

Eric Andrick’s Christmas visitor is anything but a warm and fuzzy bringer of holiday joys, in this suspenseful but heavy-handed allegory by a gifted writer. Four days before Christmas, Eric is home alone in the Eden Apartments, terribly bored, and waiting for the exterminator. Enter Anjela Gabrail, white-haired, black-clad, wearing a winged-skull logo, an exterminator who loves to kill and especially loves to kill rats. He enlists Eric in a strange and solemn compact, to kill rats or pay the (unspecified) penalty. In the next few days, as the outdoors cold deepens to mirror the chill of the Eden basement—described as a place that is “like going down into the land of the dead”—Eric and the mysterious Anje move from allies to opponents in a steadily more menacing game whose eventual stated purpose is the life or death of a common street rat. Although the nature of Anje’s hold on Eric is never made clear, Eric’s steadily growing fear is almost palpable, and readers will be relieved when he wins the deadly game with nothing worse than a bleeding scratch to remind him that killing is not a thing to do out of boredom. The allegory is hammered in, but the building of tension is very skillfully done, and readers who enjoy horror and suspense will enjoy the descriptions of the ambiguous Anje and his deadly serious game. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-83842-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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