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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May, illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo. S&S/Little Simon, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-7495-6

The original Rudolph story—as written by the late May for a booklet published in 1939 by retailer Montgomery Ward—enjoys a vivid revival in this 75th-anniversary adaptation. The story, more expansive than the omnipresent Christmas carol, gives Caparo plenty of room to exercise his artistic talents. After being teased by the other reindeer, Rudolph settles into his bedroom, buried under thick quilts and looking forward to gifts from Santa. May’s rhymes hold up well to contemporary ears (“And Santa was right, as he usually is./ The fog was as thick as a soda’s white fizz”), and after Santa struggles to deliver gifts amid inclement weather, he happily happens upon Rudolph’s home and enlists his help. Caparo’s wintry spreads, swirled with starlight, have a cinematic richness—a sense of wonder and surprise permeate this whimsical retelling. Ages 4–6. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

LeUyen Pham. Doubleday, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-385-37413-2

Pham brings an international scope to this traditional holiday song. A youthful couple, donning their Christmas finery, lead a playful dance through the song’s cumulative lyrics as the boy tries to wrangle each unwieldy gift for his girl. Pham’s (A Piece of Cake) eye for detail is evident as she showcases varieties of French hens, geese, and swans, but her paintings truly shine in the depiction of maids, lords, drummers, and ladies who hail not just different countries, but varied periods in history. Milkmaids from Africa, Europe, Asia and beyond greet the children; a Peruvian pan flutist rubs shoulders with a Scottish bagpiper; and so on—it’s nothing short of a global postcard. Musical notation and a note about the song’s origins are included, and readers are invited to locate all 78 gifts. Ages 3–7. Agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Spirit of Christmas: A Giving Tradition

Nicky Benson, illus. by Jason Cockcroft. Tiger Tales, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58925-188-5

A sandy-haired boy named Drew is concerned about the children around the world who don’t get presents for Christmas, so he gathers his own belongings and arranges for Santa to pick them up to deliver to less fortunate boys and girls. Golden light and sprays of colored dots bathe Cockcroft’s scenes of domestic bliss, as if to make manifest the magic of Christmas, literally and physically. Unfortunately, a do-gooder tone pervades the story: as Drew makes sugar cookies with his smiling mother, “Drew just couldn’t stop thinking about the families with no presents to give,” while at Santa’s Workshop, Santa and the elves rejoice over the gifts that Drew has offered: “What a kind heart little Drew has!” laughs Santa. An uplifting but decidedly unsubtle story about generosity. An edition packaged with a “giving bag” and keepsake bell is also available. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Snowman and the Snowdog

Hilary Audus and Joanna Harrison. Random, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-385-38714-9

Fans of Raymond Briggs’s classic wordless picture book The Snowman (1978) and the subsequent animated film (1982) can again take flight in that wintry, whimsical world via this print adaptation of an author-sanctioned animated short film that was produced in 2012. The action picks up many years after the initial snowman came to life and soared with his young companion through the night sky: a boy named Billy finds an old photograph of the original snowman, as well as a box containing his signature hat and scarf. Billy crafts a new snowman, along with a small snow dog who takes him on his own magical adventure, which includes a ski race, an encounter with Santa, and the granting of Billy’s wish for a real dog. The soft edges and loose lines of the illustrations pay homage to Briggs’s original artwork. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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How Many Sleeps ’til Christmas?

Mark Sperring, illus. by Sébastien Braun. Tiger Tales, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58925-160-1

Though they are bears, Daddy Grizzle and Little Pip aren’t hibernating for winter, but there’s still a fair amount of sleeping to be done before Christmas. In the days leading up to Christmas, Little Pip wakes Daddy Grizzle up first thing each morning, certain that the big day has arrived. Each time, Daddy Grizzle reminds his offspring that there are still a few more “sleeps” left before Christmas, and they use the remaining days to find a Christmas tree, send cards, wrap presents, and build snowmen. Braun’s good-natured cartooning and Sperring’s warm prose create a realistic father-and-child relationship between the two bears; Daddy Grizzle gets a tad frustrated with all the false alarms (“No, no, no, not now! Not yet!”), but he never loses his temper outright, and he’s always right at Little Pip’s side for every holiday activity. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Honeyky Hanukah

Woody Guthrie, illus. by Dave Horowitz. Doubleday, $17.99 (24p) ISBN 978-0-385-37926-7

This selection from Guthrie’s Jewish-themed oeuvre—inspired by his mother-in-law, the Jewish poet Aliza Greenblatt—has a novelty song refrain that inspires a toe-tapping performance (on the accompanying CD) by the Grammy-winning and always irresistible Klezmatics. Ever the populist, Guthrie reminds readers that Hanukkah is not all treats and presents: “If you’ve got no money, well, that’s all right... Your kiss is nicer than cakes from the store/ It’s Honeyky Hanukah time.” Created with cut paper, charcoal, and colored pencils, Horowitz’s (Twenty-Six Pirates: An Alphabet Book) illustrations have a slightly smaller quotient of his customary goofiness, but they’re bouncy and bright, and ably serve as illustrated title cards to get readers in a singalong mood. A bookplate-slash–gift tag on the front endpaper encourages giving. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten

Daniel Pinkwater, illus. by Jill Pinkwater. Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-312-62134-6

Yetta, the Pinkwaters’ inimitable Yiddish-speaking, Brooklyn-dwelling chicken, is back in her second picture book, this time playing figurative mother hen and adoption agency for a stray kitten that she finds lost in a snowdrift. Yetta’s Spanish-speaking wild parrots friends/nest mates are dubious at first: “Es un gato!” they exclaim. “Es iz a kind!” Yetta insists. “Lomir es geb esn” (“It is a baby! Let’s feed it”). But they quickly come around and help Yetta find a good home during Hanukkah (“when the humans are in a good mood”) for the kitty—who in turn reveals it can teach the parrots a thing or two about latkes. Jill Pinkwater’s bright, freestyle drawings are as bighearted and chatty as the multilingual, multispecies text. Ages 3–7. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Chick ’n’ Pug Christmas

Jennifer Sattler. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59990-602-7

It’s Christmas, and Pug, in his third picture book with his energetic avian friend Chick, has been forced into a warm red-and-white suit. “I’m supposed to look like Santa Claus,” he explains to Chick. “He brings presents and spreads joy to everyone at Christmas. And... he has a large tummy.” Thrilled with the prospect of spreading holiday joy, Chick appoints himself elf to Pug’s Santa. The two find unsuspecting targets in need of cheering up—whether they want it or not—including “the Dude,” the slobbery dog from their second book, and an “ordinary citizen” squirrel grumpily stockpiling nuts. Once again, the odd couple dynamic between these two friends drives the story, and Sattler’s feathery acrylic illustrations comically exploit the gulf between Chick’s permanently energetic state and Pug’s more laconic nature. Ages 3–6. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale

Eric Kimmel, illus. by Matthew Trueman. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4231-4355-0

For Simon, a young Jewish immigrant headed for America, life is one miracle after another—nine, in fact, which correspond to the total number of candles on a fully lit menorah. The mounting improbabilities—which include Simon surviving on an iceberg after a Titanic-like sinking, thanks to the help of a latke-loving polar bear that feeds him sushi-style salmon (“A little salty. Like lox,” Simon notes)—are handled with matter-of-fact aplomb by Kimmel (Hanukkah Bear). But Trueman’s (One Beetle Too Many) gorgeous scenes of arctic nights are the book’s high point, rendered in deep blues, silvery white, and the golden glow of candles. An author’s note about the holiday concludes this engaging and visually arresting book. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Michèle Manasse, New Work Illustration. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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’Twas Nochebuena

Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illus. by Sara Palacios. Viking, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-670-01634-1

Latin American holiday traditions and a host of Spanish words spark this zippy recast of Clement C. Moore’s Christmas poem. A girl invites readers into her family’s preparations for a boisterous Christmas Eve, a feast with all the favorite trimmings, and religious observations, too: “We clink our glass marbles and play lotería,/ while singing and laughing—qué maravilla!/ When out in the jardín I hear such a clatter,/ I spring from my silla to shout, ‘What’s the matter!’ ” Descriptions of the montones of tamales, turkey with mole sauce, and freshly fried “buñuelos with cinnamon sugar” have a mouth-watering effect, and Palacios’s mixed-media paintings of cheerful children, adults, and pets hum with an exuberance and anticipation that many readers will find familiar. A glossary is included. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Kendra Marcus, BookStop Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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