THE CHRISTMAS BLESSING

A ONE-OF-A-KIND NATIVITY STORY ABOUT THE LOVE THAT BRINGS US TOGETHER

Bickering animals unite to clean up their barn for the arrival of baby Jesus.

A thundering voice asks Mama Star to shine a path for the wandering family whose baby will fill the world with light. Mama Star shines bright to lead the way. At the Bethlehem stable, she asks the animals, who have awoken in confusion, to calm down and work together to clean up for “great visitors.” The different animals argue over the responsibility. Mama Star’s light fills the stable as she speaks to them again, telling them to look at how each kind of animal loves their young, families, and friends: “Love is love, if you’re a goat, a pig, a horse, or hen.” The coming birth will bless everyone and spread love on Earth, she tells them. The animals cuddle their young, then each starts to pitch in to clean the manger and create a comfortable space for the birth. The final page holds a rhyming “Christmas blessing” filled with thanks. The main story’s text rhymes gently, though some lines are awkwardly phrased, and many lack the rhythmic structure that makes for smooth read-alouds. Soft-focus illustrations depict Mama Star as an angelic shape composed of white light; human characters are pictured from afar or from behind, leaving their appearances up to readers’ imaginations. With the focus on unity around the blessing of Christ’s birth, this will make a nice addition to religious Christian homes.

Serves its purpose. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-4049-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Willems’ formula is still a winner.

THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH!

From the Pigeon series

The pigeon is back, and he is filthy!

Readers haven’t seen the pigeon for a couple of years, not since The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (2012), and apparently he hasn’t bathed in all that time. Per the usual routine, the bus driver (clad in shower cap and bathrobe) opens the story by asking readers to help convince the pigeon to take a bath. Though he’s covered in grime, the obstreperous bird predictably resists. He glares at readers and suggests that maybe they need baths. With the turn of the page, Willems anticipates readers’ energetic denials: The pigeon demands, “YEAH! When was the last time YOU had a bath?!” Another beat allows children to supply the answer. “Oh.” A trio of flies that find him repulsive (“P.U.!”) convinces him it’s time. One spread with 29 separate panels depicts the pigeon adjusting the bath (“Too wet!…Too cold.…Too reflective”) before the page turn reveals him jumping in with a spread-filling “SPLASH!” Readers accustomed to the pigeon formula will note that here the story breaks from its normal rhythms; instead of throwing a tantrum, the pigeon discovers what readers already know: “This is FUN!” All the elements are in place, including page backgrounds that modulate from dirty browns to fresh, clean colors and endpapers that bookend the story (including a very funny turnabout for the duckling, here a rubber bath toy).

Willems’ formula is still a winner. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9087-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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