SANTA'S SECRET

Can an inquisitive child find the real Santa?

Rhyming, first-person text follows a child to the city with the family for some holiday fun. They appear white in the cartoon illustrations, with peachy skin and straight, auburn hair (though Grandma’s coif is gray and wavy). When Santa goes by during a parade, he has light-brown skin and round, gold-rimmed glasses. On the facing page, the narrator is surprised to see another Santa with lighter skin and square, black-framed glasses. Puzzled, the child narrates, “I demanded to know: ‘Who is the REAL one?!’ ” Grandma tells her, “It’s Santa’s secret, just as it should be,” but the child decides to investigate. Most of the sleuthing occurs while visiting Santa in a store where he’s taking photos with children. The determined kid whips out a notepad and grills him. This patient, white Santa looks different from the others, rather like he’s stepped out of “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Then, while getting hot cocoa in a coffee shop, the child spies another (white) Santa look-alike (minus the red suit). Before the narrator can ask anything, he says, “ ‘Reindeer like barley and berries to eat. / But carrots,’ he added ‘are their favorite treat.’ ” Then suddenly, he’s gone! This encounter somehow leaves the narrator satisfied with not knowing who the REAL Santa is, but the non-ending may leave readers cold.

Ho-ho-hum. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-53411-038-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration.

I LOVE DADDY EVERY DAY

Children point out the things they love about their fathers.

“Daddy is always kind. He gives us support and shelter when things go wrong.” A child with a skinned knee (and downed ice cream cone) gets a bandage and loving pat from Daddy (no shelter is visible, but the child’s concerned sibling sweetly extends their own cone). Daddy’s a storyteller, a magician, supportive, loyal, silly, patient, and he knows everything. A die-cut hole pierces most pages, positioned so that the increasingly smaller holes to come can be seen through it; what it represents in each scene varies, and it does so with also-variable success. The bland, nonrhyming, inconsistent text does little to attract or keep attention, though the die cuts might (until they fall victim to curious fingers). The text also confusingly mixes first-person singular and plural, sometimes on the same page: “Daddy is like a gardener. He lovingly cares for us and watches us grow. I’m his pride and joy!” Even as the text mixes number the illustrations mix metaphors. This particular gardener daddy is pictured shampooing a child during bathtime. Más’ cartoon illustrations are sweet if murkily interpretive, affection clearly conveyed. Troublingly, though, each father and his child(ren) seem to share the same racial presentation and hair color (sometimes even hairstyle!), shutting out many different family constellations. Más does, however, portray several disabilities: children and adults wearing glasses, a child with a cochlear implant, and another using a wheelchair.

Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12305-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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