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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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Certain to become a favorite bedtime book.

EVERYBODY IN THE RED BRICK BUILDING

A crying baby sets off a chain reaction of responses from the neighbors she wakes in the red brick building.

Baby Izzie wakes up in the night with a “WaaaAAH!” Her wail wakes not only those in her apartment, but also neighbor Rayhan, who inadvertently wakes his parrot, who announces: “RraaK! WAKE UP!” The parrot’s squawks and baby’s cries wake more and more neighbors, who rouse others in the building until everyone is awake and contributing to the late-night hullabaloo. Finally, Pepper the cat manages to set off a car alarm that yells “WEE YOOO WEEEE YOOOOO!!!!” into the night. Eventually, all the neighbors—a testament to urban diversity—settle down from the excitement and return to bed. Each is lulled by soft, gentle sounds that begin with the “shhh shhh” of a street sweeper, the “plonk plonk” of falling acorns, and the “ting ting” of a wind chime. The onomatopoeia in this cumulative tale is appropriate for the actions described and is so much fun to read. Mora’s beautiful, vivid geometric illustrations incorporate the onomatopoeia in the first half of the story. They sprawl across spreads and invite loud reading but are absent by the time the story begins to make its turn back to the starting point. That “shhh shhh” sound from the street sweeper brings calm and quiet to the activity in the red brick building—and, as if by magic, readers as well. Sotto voce: very well done! (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Certain to become a favorite bedtime book. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-286576-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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