Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood
Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda

Poor Cat – he’s been naughty for most of the year (he has a pie chart to prove it), so he’s going to dress up like Santa so he can give himself a present. But maybe he should try a last-minute attempt at getting on the nice list instead? There are several false starts, involving, among other things, a jet pack (I love the jet pack!!) and stinky fish. Cat does finally find a way to be nice (though from his dramatic posture it clearly pains him a bit) and is rewarded by Santa.

The message of thinking of others at Christmas comes through loud and clear, but in a very funny and non-saccharine way. This book is so much fun! The style of storytelling is novel – it’s a back-and-forth between an unseen narrator and Cat, who communicates through facial expressions and by holding up signs. It would be a great book to read one on-one with a child, to be the encouraging/ exasperated narrator and interpret Cat’s signs together. This is definitely on my to-buy list for the Imp when he’s a bit older. I might even try it at storytime next year. Though the book’s size is a bit small for a group, Rueda’s the pencil crayon and ink illustrations (mostly in just red, green and cat colour) really stand out on the white background. (I really like Rueda’s style, particularly in Huff & Puff.)

For fun in the springtime, see this pair’s Here Comes the Easter Cat and their newest, year-round title, Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat.

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy borrowed from the library).

Treasure Island: A BabyLit Shapes Primer by Jennifer Adams, Illustrated by Alison Oliver

Treasure Island

Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of chocolate milk! It’s another book that I had to buy because the Imp loved the library copy so much. The Giant and I are quite into pirates and so we’ve been introducing them to the boy.

Like all of the BabyLit books, this one focuses on one concept – shapes. The Imp has learned such 2-year-old improbable words as octopus, diamond, oval, crescent and, his favourite, jolly roger. Each 2-page spread has a white picture of the shape on a coloured background with the word below on the left and a Treasure Island-themed picture using that shape on the right (treasure map, Long John Silver, ship, etc.).

While the style of the artwork isn’t my favourite (I’m a girl who likes super-cute), it’s bold and striking but simple, which makes it easy to point out the shapes in the picture and to find details like the various jolly rogers and octopi throughout. This book is a triple threat – exposure to a classic, colours practice and an introduction to shapes, including more complex ones.

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy personally purchased).

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky, Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

How Santa Got HIs Job by Stephen Krensky
How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky, Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

This book is all about what Santa did before he became Santa Claus. I picked this book because I grew up reading it. I like when Santa is looking for different jobs, and seeing what problem he has with each one. In the story Santa worked as a chimney sweeper, a delivery guy, a cook,
at a zoo and in the circus. The funniest thing in the book is the pictures. Elephant by Rebecca BenderIf I could change one thing it would be the way Santa found the elves. This is a good book!

Reviewed by Erin.

***

How Santa Got His Job has been with our winter/Christmas books for so long I actually don’t recall how it ever came to be there. I think it was part of a batch of winter themed books that came together in a Scholastic book order many years ago. I have always enjoyed the books humorous and original take on the whole Santa thing, especially at a time of year when it can feel like every book is just the same story told in slightly different words. Here we meet him as just another guy, trying to find and keep a job.

I quite agree with Erin, the section of the story with the elves is the one part that seems a bit forced. Most of the connections are more “believable.” For example, while working as a delivery driver Santa gets frustrated by traffic woes and starts doing deliveries at night when the roads are clear. Customer satisfaction becomes an issue and he is fired, but it sets up a logical segue to both his delivery skills and his propensity for night shifts.

All in all, both the text and the illustrations make this a fun non-traditional addition to the holiday reading tradition.

Turtle by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Susan Jean

(review copy personally purchased).

Chloe the Kitten (Fairy Animals of Misty Wood) by Lily Small

Chloe the Kitten by Lily Small
Chloe the Kitten by Lily Small

Chloe the Kitten is a fairy animal who lives in Misty Wood. Her job, as a Cobweb Kitten, is to help make Misty Wood beautiful by decorating all the spiderwebs with glittering dewdrops. One morning she wakes up late and nearly misses the window of opportunity to collect her bucket of dewdrops from the dewdrop fountain. Receiving help from a friend she successfully completes her day’s work only to discover that someone has come along afterward and stolen the dewdrops off the webs. It turns out the thief is only a thirsty little mouse who’s lost. Chloe determines to help her new friend find his family even though he lives by the lions and she’s afraid of the danger they may encounter.

Chloe the Kitten is the first book of the rapidly expanding Fairy Animals of Misty Wood series by Lily Small. Its cover, with a cute fairy-winged kitten and embossed shining silver sparkle, is a sure magnet for many a young reader. My five-year-old daughter eagerly brought it home from the bookstore and begged to read it with me immediately. We curled up on the couch, read the first chapter, then the next, and the next, until we finished the whole book in about an hour!

There are many strengths to this book. Lily Small invites readers into a truly wondrous world– a world in which every fairy animal plays an important part, care for creation is a core aspect in everyday activity, and friendship and kindness are encouraged in spite of worry and fear. Sentence structure is simple and appropriate for early readers yet the simplicity does not distract from other elements of the story. Chapter endings are especially strong, raising a question or concern over the next course of action. It’s difficult to stop reading when one’s curiosity is so peaked.

The  one weakness I’d attribute is the lack of Chloe’s contribution to problem-solving in the story. When it comes to the missing bucket, it’s a friend who provides a solution. When it comes to finding the mouse’s family, for all of Chloe’s attempts and tries, it’s the Wise Owl who conveniently makes it happen. Chloe, as a main character who means well, should have had a more direct role in discovering the location of the  “lions”.

All in all, Chloe the Kitten is an excellent book (perhaps most strong as a stand alone from the rest of the series). It’ll capture the heart of any reader that likes cute animal critters, fairies, forests, glitter and pretty.

Reading in the Woods by Rebecca Bender ResizedReviewed by K.C. Darling

(review copy personally purchased).

 

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton

Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

My library recently asked staff to help with a display for “Books That Changed Your Life.” Hippos Go Berserk! was one of my picks! It may be overstating it a bit, but I feel like this book brought us together as a new family.

We had received one of Sandra Boynton‘s other great books, Are You a Cow?, when the Imp was born. I had already known how great Boynton is, but the Giant hadn’t encountered her before. Even though we were exhausted and confused new parents, he said that we should go to our awesome local children’s bookstore and get some more of Boynton’s books. So that was one of the Imp’s first outings, at about a month old.

We purchased Hippos Go Berserk! and life would never be the same – the Imp loved it! We read it so often that we can recite it by heart, we’ve read it backwards, the Giant made up a jazzy, Sinatra-esque tune for it and we’d sing it in the car… Once I was back at work, the Giant was still reading it so often that he started noticing little details and making up back stories for the hippos – “Look at that one’s sidelong look, he’s thinking ‘Oh no, it’s the Johnsons again!'” He pointed out that the 9 hippos who come to work go about their jobs soberly and diligently, so therefore all the hippos do not, in fact, go berserk. And he’s concerned that the last 2 hippos have stolen hippo #1’s wheelbarrow. So it makes the two of us laugh together, too.

The Imp always, always smiles when we get to the berserk page and will sometimes turn the pages on us in mid-sentence to get there faster. Now that he’s starting to learn more words, he likes pointing to the numbers and also the page with the moon and the tree. I’m so pleased that the book is growing with him (most board books have a limited shelf life) and it’s been so well-loved that we recently had to buy a new copy, because the original looked like this:

A Well-Loved Copy of Hippos Go Berserk
Our well-loved copy of Boynton’s Hippos Go Berserk!

How about you? Do you have a favourite Boynton book? What are some fun ways you’ve jazzed-up story times? You’re comments are welcome!

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy personally purchased).

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus, Illustrated by Vip

 

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus
Originally published in 1969, reissued in hardcover 2010

 

Elephant by Rebecca BenderThe Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher is a good book with 3 or 4 stars. In the book the Snitcher is just someone who doesn’t understand Christmas and tries to find his own way to have fun. I think it’s a really good book and it used to be my favourite.

Reviewed by Erin

***

This was my absolute favourite book the year I was in kindergarten. I really hate to date myself, but that was quite some time ago now, back in the early 70’s. I can still remember the ball of eager anxiety that would form in my stomach as we sat on the carpet for story time in the school library. Would I be able to find my beloved book before anyone else got to it?

Years later I decided to track the book down and share it with my own kids. That’s when I found out The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher had been out of print for years, and second hand copies where selling for over $400! Fortunately Purple House Press, a small publisher dedicated to “rescuing long lost but well-loved children’s books,” took up the cause and the book is back in print.

So, some 40 plus years later, how has my once favourite book stood the test of time, and changing perspectives? About as well as most memories once idolized I’m afraid.

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher tells the tragic tale of a town bereft of sprinkles for their Christmas cookies, all snatched by the sneaky Snitcher. When the entire population, including the chief of police, gives way to despair, a “plucky kid named Little Nat” takes matters into his own hands, and sets out to confront the Snitcher and save the baking season since…

“Christmas cookies without sprinkles

Are like raisins without wrinkles,

And like sleigh bells without tinkles

Are Christmas cookies without sprinkles.”

As you can see, the story is told in rhyme, which is both its charm and its downfall. If you put your literary glasses on, you will choke to death. BUT if you take the combination of trite and forced rhymes and the strained scansion as part of a quirky charming idiosyncratic package, then it all fits together.

Where the book still really shines is in its wonderful illustrations. Those who take the time to notice will find lots of amusing details in the pictures, which have aged better than the text. (Or survived my aging better than the text, depending on how you want to look at it.)

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher will always hold a place in my heart, and on my bookshelf, and I really do think it is still a fun read as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously and just let the quirkiness of the text become part of the charm.

Turtle by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Susan Jean

(review copy personally purchased).