An unusual interpretation of a holiday classic, with memorable illustrations and the additional, helpful bonus of the...

THE NUTCRACKER

From the Story Orchestra series

This lavishly illustrated interpretation of The Nutcracker includes embedded chips that play short excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s music for the ballet.

The plot of the beloved ballet is retold in 10 double-page spreads, with a button that triggers an audio clip integrated into each spread. The story opens with the Christmas party at Clara’s house, with a multicultural crowd of guests in old-fashioned party clothes. The familiar tale unfolds with the battle between the toy soldiers and mice, the journey to the Land of Sweets, and the return to reality with Clara asleep under the Christmas tree. The text blocks are skillfully integrated into the illustrations, with borders of candies, flowers, or branches surrounding the words. Vibrant, detailed illustrations are filled with magical trees, fantasy flowers, and opulent backgrounds for the different dances. Every scene includes dancers of multiple ethnicities, including a Sugar Plum Fairy with brown skin. Clara and the other main characters are white. The final pages include a biographical note about Tchaikovsky, a glossary of musical and ballet terms, and buttons for all 10 musical chips along with explanations of the relevance of each selection to the story. The recordings are brief and of notably high quality for the format. Adults preparing children for attending a performance of the ballet will find this edition helpful in explaining both the plot of the ballet and Tchaikovsky’s music.

An unusual interpretation of a holiday classic, with memorable illustrations and the additional, helpful bonus of the thematic music. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-068-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A feisty manifesto and appealing visual experience for those who find books thrust upon them.

I DON'T WANT TO READ THIS BOOK

After declaring refusal to do so, an unseen narrator reads this book.

The book’s title appears as a Post-it note attached to the cover. With lighthearted, whimsical word-art drawings, hand-lettering, a clipped pace, and a palette dominated by a warm peach tone, the story features a wry and opinionated offstage narrator who provides metatextual commentary about the scorned book at hand. “Let me guess...Words,” says the snarky narrator about what to expect when opening the book. Some words, such as the word doubtwith its useless letter B, are “plain ridiculous.” And then there are unnecessarily large words, such as infinitesimal, which (confoundingly) means “small.” By now, the narrator has reached peak crankiness. The next objects of the narrator’s ire are sentences, described as “too many words all smushed together,” followed by paragraphs (“Just looking at a paragraph exhausts me”) and chapters. (Cue Chapter 2!) The hyperbolic vexation is genuinely funny as medium and message converge. Words, sentences, paragraphs, an entire chapter, and the ending are presented in this anti-reading diatribe, the enddepicted in triumphant, celebratory fireworks. Greenfield’s gentle satire and Lowery’s genuinely entertaining cartoon translation of prose to art might charm even avid readers (who may remember once agreeing with some of the narrator’s sentiments). (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A feisty manifesto and appealing visual experience for those who find books thrust upon them. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32606-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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