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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A sweet story highlighting nonromantic love during the Valentine season.

THE HOUSE OF LOVE

In a big, old house on a snowy hill, the Amore family of nine celebrates Valentine's Day.

Mia Valentina, the youngest family member, and Mama clean the house and decorate for the Amores’ favorite holiday. Then Mia’s mother helps her make thoughtful but funny valentines for her 6 siblings. When Papa and the rest of the clan return home from a basketball game, Mia’s siblings get a kick out of their valentines, and Papa presents Mama with chocolate cherry cordials, but no one gives Mia a gift. While the family has dinner and plays games, Mia’s sadness seemingly goes unnoticed. It’s not until bedtime that she makes a discovery that chases away her gloom. The pages of this book are text-heavy, making it a good springboard for young readers making the transition to chapter books. The light pink pages, cheerful illustrations, and homespun authenticity of the text will appeal to children. The cozy Appalachian mountain setting shines through. Crafty types will glean inspiration to create a gumdrop tree, custom valentines, or themed cupcakes. Mentions of an antique washing machine and patched-up windows establish the Amores as a working-class family. The old house and large family could be read as standard storybook fare or, by more critical readers, as a romanticized image of rural life, and the didactic ending feels old-fashioned. The Amores are White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A sweet story highlighting nonromantic love during the Valentine season. (Illustrated text. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20331-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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