From the How To Catch… series

A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

Wallace and Elkerton continue their series about catching elusive mythical creatures (How to Catch a Leprechaun, 2016, etc.) with this Christmas story about an elf who must avoid traps constructed by children before Santa’s annual visit.

The unnamed elf narrator is the sole helper traveling with Santa on his delivery rounds on Christmas Eve, with each house featuring a different type of trap for elves. The spunky elf avoids a mechanical “elf snatcher,” hidden in a plate of cookies, as well as simple traps made of tinsel, double-sided tape, and a cardboard box concealing a mean-looking cat. Another trap looks like a bomb hidden in a box of candy, and a complicated trap in a maze has an evil cowboy clown with a branding iron, leading to the elf’s cry, “Hey, you zapped my tushy!” The bomb trap and the branding iron seem to push the envelope of child-made inventions. The final trap is located in a family grocery store that’s booby-trapped with a “Dinner Cannon” shooting out food, including a final pizza that the elf and Santa share. The singsong, rhyming text has a forced cheeriness, full of golly-jolly-holly Christmas spirit and too many exclamation marks, as well as rhyming word pairs that miss the mark. (No, little elf-boy, “smarter” and “harder” do not rhyme.) Bold, busy illustrations in a cartoon style have a cheeky appeal with a focus on the freckle-faced white elf with auburn curls and a costume with a retro vibe. (Santa is also white.)

A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4631-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016


It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how many mediocre sequels you can squeeze out of Seussian property.

Since a reformed Grinch is hardly any fun, this follow-up Grinches him up once more.

Those seeking more of the same, prepare to receive precisely that. Christmas is coming (again!), and the Grinch can hardly wait. He’s been patient all year, and now he can finally show the Whos down in Who-ville how much he’s changed. When the Grinch learns of a tree-decorating contest, he figures that if he wins, it’ll prove he truly has the Christmas spirit. He throws himself into the task, but when it comes time to judge the trees, the Grinch is horrified to discover that he’s received only the second-place trophy. Can Cindy-Lou Who find the words to save the day? Replicating many of the original beats and wordplay of the original, this tale feels like less a sequel and more like a vaguely rewritten variation. Meanwhile, Ruiz’s art seeks to bridge the gap between the animated Chuck Jones version of the Grinch and the one depicted in the original book. This thankless task results in a strange uncanny valley between Seuss and Jones but does allow the artist a chance to colorize everything and lend some racial diversity to the Who population (Cindy-Lou is light-skinned). (This book was reviewed digitally.)

It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how many mediocre sequels you can squeeze out of Seussian property. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593563168

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023


From the How To Catch… series

Cookie-cutter predictability.

After all the daring escapes in the How To Catch… series, will the kids be able to catch Santa?

Oddly, previous installments saw the children trying (and failing) to catch an elf and a reindeer, but both are easily captured in this story. Santa, however, is slippery. Tempted but not fooled by poinsettias, a good book (attached to a slingshot armed with a teddy bear projectile), and, of course, milk and cookies, Santa foils every plan. The hero in a red suit has a job to do. Presents must be placed, and lists must be checked. He has no time for traps and foolery (except if you’re the elf, who falls for every one of them). Luckily, Santa helps the little rascal escape each time. Little is new here—the kids resort to similar snares found in previous works: netting, lures, and technological wonders such as the Santa Catcher 5000. Although the rhythm falters quite a bit (“How did we get out you ask? / It looked like we were done for. / Santa’s magic is very real, / and I cannot reveal more”), fans of the series may not mind. Santa and Christmas just might be enough to overcome the flaws. Santa and the elf are light-skinned, one of the children is brown-skinned, and the other presents as Asian. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Cookie-cutter predictability. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781728274270

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2023

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