Cozy fun for the right audience.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Following in a hoary tradition, another artist sets his work to Moore’s classic Christmas poem.

A modern home is the setting for this rendition. A dog sleeps curled up in the hallway beside boots, children’s drawings, and a shovel, all backlit by the lights of a Christmas tree. A Christmas elf sits on the mantle above the stockings along with a portrait of a hooded woman holding a glowing star. The White family lies sleeping until the male narrator is awoken by the clatter from outdoors. He and the dog rush to the window and share the magical moment of spotting Santa driving his reindeer. They watch as Santa lands in the fireplace, distributes toys, and sits with his pipe and enjoys cookies before shooting back up the chimney and flying off into the night. The illustrations use saturated color, sharp lines, and bright highlights for an animation-style sheen. Close-ups of Santa depict a round, pink-faced, blue-eyed man who will appear jolly to some readers, unsettling to others. With an opening scene that’s familiar (to White, middle-class readers) and pets and mice sprinkled throughout, this visual tale will delight those who like to pair classic texts with more modern settings. Those contemporary trappings aside, this book’s sensibilities are in tune with the original text’s times. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Cozy fun for the right audience. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8445-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard.

THE HALLOWEEN TREE

A grouchy sapling on a Christmas tree farm finds that there are better things than lights and decorations for its branches.

A Grinch among the other trees on the farm is determined never to become a sappy Christmas tree—and never to leave its spot. Its determination makes it so: It grows gnarled and twisted and needle-less. As time passes, the farm is swallowed by the suburbs. The neighborhood kids dare one another to climb the scary, grumpy-looking tree, and soon, they are using its branches for their imaginative play, the tree serving as a pirate ship, a fort, a spaceship, and a dragon. But in winter, the tree stands alone and feels bereft and lonely for the first time ever, and it can’t look away from the decorated tree inside the house next to its lot. When some parents threaten to cut the “horrible” tree down, the tree thinks, “Not now that my limbs are full of happy children,” showing how far it has come. Happily for the tree, the children won’t give up so easily, and though the tree never wished to become a Christmas tree, it’s perfectly content being a “trick or tree.” Martinez’s digital illustrations play up the humorous dichotomy between the happy, aspiring Christmas trees (and their shoppers) and the grumpy tree, and the diverse humans are satisfyingly expressive.

Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7335-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A lovely story of giving and community founded in Nigerian culture. Delectable.

THANK YOU, OMU!

Omu makes a stew so delicious everyone in the neighborhood follows their noses to her door.

Omu (which means “queen” in Igbo—Omu is black) is making a “thick red stew in a big fat pot” for her dinner. She tastes it, saying it’ll be the most delicious supper she’s ever had, while out the window drifts the scent of the “scrumptious” stew until it reaches a little boy. The story is peppered with synonyms for “scrumptious” (itself repeated throughout), allowing readers the chance to discuss and expand vocabulary. When the little boy follows the smell to Omu’s door, she kindly offers to share her stew with him. So begins a veritable parade of neighborhood residents who, led by the smell, end up at Omu’s door. The collage art adds texture, depth, and distinctiveness to each character. Omu shares her thick red stew with all and receives grateful thanks in reply. Alas, when Omu looks for her own supper, she finds her pot empty. The expressive illustrations convey her despondency as she answers yet another knock at her door to find…that the multiracial neighbors she shared with are back! This time, they have gifts in hand and are ready to make her a wonderful supper, which turns into another shared meal and a dance party.

A lovely story of giving and community founded in Nigerian culture. Delectable. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-43124-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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