HERBIE’S SECRET SANTA

With this fourth entry in her Lottie and Herbie series, Mathers (A Cake for Herbie, 2000, etc.) explores the concepts of a guilty conscience and the difficulty of apologizing within an amusing, nontraditional Christmas story. Watercolor panel illustrations in her charming naïve style introduce the animal characters of Lottie and Herbie’s town of Oysterville, with everyone full of holiday good will and involved in Christmas preparations. Herbie the duck and Lottie the hen stop by Ali Baba’s Bakery, where Herbie can’t resist the temptation of a frosted Santa cookie, and his stolen treat sticks in his throat, both literally and figuratively. In her witty, understated text, Mathers deftly shows how Herbie is sick with remorse and sure that everyone knows about the theft, and then shows how hard it is to apologize to those whose trust has been violated. The bakers and Lottie forgive Herbie his trespass and are willing to remain his friends, and in a calm, satisfying conclusion, Herbie gives Lottie a Christmas gift of a handmade gold star that brightens up a cloudy day, just like a warm friendship. In addition to working well as a different sort of Christmas story, this cautionary tale will also serve to ward off any child’s remote idea of shoplifting or even tasting an unauthorized bite of the merchandise. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-83550-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Anne Schwartz/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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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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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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