As a manners book, hide your doubloons. But as a pirate book, it’s yo-ho-ho and away you go! (Picture book. 3-6)

ARE PIRATES POLITE?

Mutinous manners and piratical politeness are the name of the game in this swashbuckling story.

It might surprise readers to hear that pirates are the positive pinnacle of politeness, but it’s true! Twelve mannerly qualities are listed, with these mostly white pirates making the grade. As the book says from the start, “Pirates are unruly and pirates love to fight, / but pirates still say ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ ’cause pirates are polite.” And here’s the captain merrily handing over a crewmate’s molar after a scuffle. Other guidelines are checked off the list as well, including chewing with one’s mouth shut (particularly if it’s someone else’s food), always saying “thank you” (even when stealing booty), and using one’s inside voice (in the hold). Catrow lends his considerable talents to the tale, yet the result is strangely disjointed, leaving readers unsure if the book is serious or sarcastic. For example, readers are told not to barge into private situations, so the pirates leave the captain alone during his bubble bath, which seems literal enough. Yet earlier in the book, the verse on sharing is depicted with a lone pirate marooned with only a single coin from the latest haul—that’s sharing? Mind you, not all young pirate lovers will note these discrepancies. If it’s grotesque pirate misadventures they seek, this book delivers in spades.

As a manners book, hide your doubloons. But as a pirate book, it’s yo-ho-ho and away you go! (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-62874-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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