Calming, serene, respectful.

THE OLD WOMAN

An old woman transits through an autumn day, evening, and overnight to dawn, unhurriedly observing nature’s cues.

She and her dog live in a simply furnished old house. Most days, the dog chases squirrels, then dozes indoors on an old rug. On a walk in the hills, they observe a crow, and the woman marvels at what it would be like to fly. The woman throws sticks for the dog to fetch and finds a stout walking stick for herself. They rest at a familiar boulder “with its perfect seat.” Whirling fall leaves trigger a memory of playing outside for hours. Kazemi draws the woman in her younger form, hair now dark against her pale skin, dancing among the leaves. The artist’s lovely illustrations blend chalky graphite-gray with pastel and rusty autumnal accents. The full harvest moon rises, and the woman thinks of words to describe it: “huge, looming, warm, gentle, enormous, dreamy, peaceful, autumnal—magnificent.” Next morning, stiff and achy from the long walk, she goes outside to watch the sun rise. “There was a chill in the air. Soon it would be cold. It always comes like this, thought the old woman, and yet no one day is the same as another.” This beautifully contemplative portrait is notable for its depiction of a capable elder, dwelling not amid illness, regret, or grief, but in the moment, relishing each day’s unique beauty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 91.5% of actual size.)

Calming, serene, respectful. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-211-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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