Booklist Reviews

Old Hannah lives in a wooden cottage deep in the forest. Life is a struggle, especially in winter, but one day she finds a black boot that changes things. She wishes she had the shoe's mate, and there it is. Mittens come the next day, and when she wonders aloud what the boot might provide next—a feather bed, a fancy house?—they appear. Hannah doesn't feel comfortable with this largess, and so she's relieved when the boot's owner appears: Santa Claus. Santa asks if there's anything he can give her. Hannah wishes for the impossible: someone to talk to. But also boots, and maybe mittens? The next morning, she has both, and a squirmy puppy for company. The story's warm folktale feel is heightened by the Caldecott medalist Pinkney's glowing art, alive with detail and overflowing with ambiance. Hannah's wintry world is wide awake with snow-covered pines and cavorting animals. Inside, there is coziness and satisfaction with one's lot in life. Here is a holiday book that provides something to talk about as well as look at. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews

Dazzling picture books to become December traditions

Gather your little elves for story time, and get set for a sparkling holiday with heartwarming tales of Christmas Eve magic. The plum picks featured here will bring the spirit of December to any reading circle.

A new book from paper-craft whiz Robert Sabuda is always a cause for celebration, and this year he delivers another pop-up masterpiece. The Christmas Story is a spellbinding depiction of the Nativity that will enchant readers of all ages. Sabuda uses white paper with touches of gold to create pristine scenes that capture the majesty of the story of Jesus’ birth. His crisp tableaux lend a new dimension—literally—to the cherished tale. Wise men astride camels, a sparkling star and a stable filled with very special occupants are standout elements in a book brimming with pop-up surprises. It seems there’s nothing Sabuda can’t create out of paper. His visionary take on the Nativity is destined to become a December staple.

You can’t go wrong with a title like Stowaway in a Sleigh. This irresistible Christmas caper from C. Roger Mader features a feline with a problem only Santa can solve. On Christmas Eve, Slipper, a green-eyed cat, discovers an intruder in the house—a big man with furry boots, dressed in head-to-toe red! Deciding to check out his bag of goodies, Slipper crawls inside. Unsuspecting Santa shoulders the sack, and in a breathtaking nod to The Polar Express, Slipper soon finds herself flying high in Santa’s sleigh, heading for the North Pole. How will she get home? With the help of Mr. Claus, of course! In his richly detailed pastel illustrations, Mader conveys Slipper’s many moods—curiosity, wonder and, in the end, contentment. This is a trip readers will want to take again and again. 

In Anik McGrory’s The Christmas Fox, a mischievous fox is summoned by his animal friends to help prepare the stable for the arrival of a baby. “Come . . . there’s a place to make warm with sweet-smelling hay,” says the cow. “Come,” the lamb tells him. “There are gifts to get ready with soft, cozy wool.” But the fox—uncertain about how he can help—ignores their words. He frolics in the snow and plays in a stream. Once he arrives at the stable, he finds that he’s able to contribute after all, in true fox-like fashion. Youngsters will fall for McGrory’s impish fox, whose personality comes alive in her appealing illustrations, and if they don’t yet know the Nativity story, they’ll find an easy introduction here.

Lisa Wheeler celebrates the miracles of the season in The Christmas Boot. Hannah Greyweather is out gathering wood when she discovers a lone boot in the snow. It fits her left foot perfectly and eases her walk back to the solitary cabin she calls home. How wonderful it would be, Hannah thinks, to have its mate! The next morning, she’s surprised to find two boots by her bed. Soon anything Hannah wishes for materializes before her eyes, including bright red mittens and a magnificent new house. When the owner of the lost boot—Santa himself—comes to claim it, he brings the magic to an end, but before he departs, he gives Hannah the gift she needs the most. Jeff Pinkney’s breathtaking illustrations make this an exceptional holiday story and a tale to be treasured. 

Kallie George’s The Lost Gift is all about the goodness of giving. Squirrel, Rabbit, Bird and Deer wait on snow-laden Merry Woods Hill in hopes of spotting Santa. When they finally spy him overhead, the wind whips his sleigh and a present falls off “like a shooting star.” In the forest, the critters find the gift—a package tagged for the new baby at a local farm. With some ingenuity—and Santa-inspired goodwill—they deliver the present to its tiny rightful owner. At the end of their mission, they discover a surprise—a present just for them, from you-know-who. Stephanie Graegin’s pencil-and-ink illustrations make this Christmas Eve, with its star-studded night sky, one to remember. Little readers will feel big love for George’s furry holiday heroes.

In Delia Huddy’s The Christmas Eve Tree, a homeless boy rescues a forlorn little fir fated for the trash and takes it to his camp beneath a railway bridge. With the help of candles, the resourceful lad transforms it into a magnificent symbol of the season. The tree’s blazing branches attract passersby, who come together around it and sing. After the holiday, the boy moves on and the fir is forgotten—almost. In the end, it endures, growing to majestic heights in a park. Thanks to artist Emily Sutton, whose watercolor visuals have a delightful retro quality, Huddy’s story brims with holiday sweetness. This distinctive tale is a testament to the way Christmas can create a sense of community.


This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Copyright 2016 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Old, poor Hannah Greyweather finds one sturdy boot while out on Christmas morning; to her surprise, its mate shows up the next morning by her bed, beginning the holiday magic. Christmas mystery and coziness are successfully maintained thanks to snowy pencil and watercolor illustrations and a heroine who is satisfied with what she has and happy with what she gets: a puppy. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Hannah Greyweather, old and poor but content, finds a single sturdy boot while out gathering kindling on Christmas morning; much to her surprise, its mate shows up the next morning by her bed. And that's only the beginning of the holiday magic. With Santa Claus showing himself two days after Christmas, the storytelling is a little too loose to be completely satisfying, but the air of Christmas mystery and coziness is successfully maintained thanks to Pinkney's snowy pencil and watercolor illustrations of a country Christmas and a heroine who is satisfied with what she has and happy with what she gets: a puppy. roger sutton Copyright 2016 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

A poor and lonely woman finds a black boot in the snow, which leads to magical transformations just before Christmas.Hannah Greyweather leads a solitary, hardscrabble life in her mountain cabin. When she tries on the newfound boot, it immediately changes shape to fit her foot perfectly. When she wishes for the boot's mate, it mysteriously appears the next morning, followed by a pair of red mittens. Hannah then wishes for a feather bed, fine food, and a fancy house, all of which magically appear without explanation. But when a white-bearded man in a red suit comes looking for his missing boot, all the magical developments disappear. The unnamed visitor provides Hannah with new boots, mittens, and a puppy for companionship before he departs into the night sky with his sleigh and reindeer. The original story flows like a folk tale, with a fine blend of dialogue and description. Dramatic tension and humor result from Hannah's unfamiliarity with Santa, and children will enjoy being in on the identity of the red-suited visitor. Pinkney enhances the strong text with his delightful watercolor illustrations filled with homey details and swirling snowflakes. Both Hannah and Santa have ruddy complexions, and both seem like real people rather than storybook characters. An extra-large trim size, high-quality paper, and a thoughtful design add to the book's overall appeal. A winner of a story with enchanting illustrations by a master. (Picture book. 4-7) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Gently told and exquisitely illustrated, this holiday jewel centers on Hannah Greyweather, a poor woman who lives in a "ramshackle cabin" and finds a boot in the snow. Her wishes—for the boot's mate, mittens, and a fancy house—are magically granted. After answering a knock at the door of her sprawling new mansion, Hannah finds a bearded man wearing a red suit and one black boot, whose mate she readily returns. When he asks if there is anything she wants, Hannah's request for "someone to talk to" (as well as replacement mittens and boots) leads to a resolution that will warm the hearts of readers of all ages. Pinkney's (The Lion & the Mouse) meticulously detailed art exudes old-world charm and is a splendid match for Wheeler's (the Dino series) tender tale about taking only what one needs. Ages 4–8. Author's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Sheldon Fogelman, Sheldon Fogelman Agency. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews

K-Gr 3—Hannah is an old woman living simply in her mountain cabin. One day while gathering wood in her stocking feet, she finds a boot. Hannah is delighted and wishes for a second boot and then for warm mittens and finally for a big fancy house. The boots and the mittens suit her well, but the big house doesn't feel as comfortable. When Santa Claus arrives—missing his boots—Hannah gives hers back, and all of the other gifts disappear as well. Santa leaves the old woman with new boots and mittens and a little dog to keep her company. This retelling of the folktale of the "Fisherman's Wife" who greedily wishes for too much has a kinder ending, and Pinkney's paintings are appropriate to the folkloric quality of this entry. VERDICT A worthy holiday reimagining, best enjoyed as an independent read or as a read-aloud in a small group setting.—Virginia Walter, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Copyright 2016 School Library Journal.