Sure to be caught under many a tree.

THE GREAT SANTA STAKEOUT

Can Santa’s biggest fan snap the ultimate selfie?

Freddy Melcher (who has light skin and brown hair and eyes and whose surname is a clever variant of the Wise Man moniker, Melchior) could be Santa's biggest fan. All year long, he celebrates the jolly old elf and collects all things St. Nick. As Christmas Eve approaches, Freddy is determined to capture a photo “with Santa, fresh out of the chimney.” He devises a four-step plan involving a rooftop trap and goes to bed determined to stay awake and meet his idol—but, alas, sleep takes hold. A sudden “CRASH!” awakens Freddy, who sees “something big [roll] right off the roof.” Is Santa hurt? Poor Freddy dashes outside, fearing the worst, only to find a Santa lawn ornament headfirst in the snow, with a note attached reading, “NICE TRY, FREDDY! —SANTA.” Santat cleverly depicts this note viewed from Freddy’s perspective, which aligns readers with the protagonist and hides his reaction—for the moment. A page-turn reveals that Freddy feels “FANTASTIC,” because “while other kids nestled all snug in their beds, Freddy had played hide-and-seek with his hero!” Never mind a happy ending, this is a downright jolly one—merry, even. Santat’s multimedia art elevates Bird’s joyful, playful text to holiday picture-book excellence, his use of chiaroscuro especially masterful in the nighttime scenes.

Sure to be caught under many a tree. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16998-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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