Inclusive in some ways but not others.

DEAR SANTA

FOR EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES IN THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS

A self-reflective child reaps rewards on Christmas morning.

Parker (who presents as a black boy with brown skin and Afro-textured hair in digital illustrations that have an aesthetic right out of current television animation) is nervous when his weekend art teacher, Ms. Holly, assigns the class to write a letter to Santa. Classmates (at least three of whom seem to be children of color while the teacher appears white) write letters extolling their own virtues and denying wrongdoing. In his letter, however, Parker decides to be honest about times he’s been naughtier than nice. His acknowledged misdeeds are utterly benign or grounded in good intentions, and the accompanying illustrations show him interacting with his parents as he recalls behavior infractions throughout the epistolary section. Parker’s mother appears black with the same skin tone as his while his father appears white, and this centering of a biracial child of color in an interracial family is notable among the many Christmas books with white protagonists. Ms. Holly mails the letters, and Santa (depicted as white, though elves are depicted with a range of skin tones) is moved by Parker’s words. He rewards him with all the gifts on his list, a step that may ring false to less-fortunate kids, including those who use the backmatter letter-writing template to write to Saint Nick themselves.

Inclusive in some ways but not others. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9474-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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