A heartwarming tale of the magic of Christmas, but adults will need to be ready to help children past the rough spots.

ONE CHRISTMAS WISH

A little boy finds a box of old ornaments that come to life on a special Christmas Eve.

Theo’s parents have left him alone with a distracted babysitter. Despondent, Theo makes a wish on a shooting star “to be un-alone.” A rocking horse, a robin, a tin soldier, and an angel wake up to keep him company. Each has its own distinctive personality—the rocking horse eats everything in sight, the little robin has forgotten how to sing, the angel would love to have real feathers for her wings, and the soldier pines for his own true love. They head outside for an evening full of joyful adventures. Rundell’s writing is delightful, but it’s marred by several non sequiturs and discrepancies between text and art. Illustrations throughout clearly show Theo clad in striped pajamas. Yet the text says “Theo thought about his heart, beating hard under his four layers of sweaters.” When Theo and his ornament friends find a princess doll in a toy store, the line “Theo lifted down her box” is followed by “Theo looked up at the doll,” who’s depicted in place on the upper shelf. But great care was given to the book’s beautiful design. Spacious text wraps around illustrations; wide borders are sometimes filled with pictures, and the pages open up to perfectly placed, colorful double-page spreads. Theo, his family, and the humanoid animate toys all present white.

A heartwarming tale of the magic of Christmas, but adults will need to be ready to help children past the rough spots. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9161-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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