‘Santa Bruce’ (and more) by Ryan T. Higgins Is a Picture Book That’s as Much Fun for Adults to Read as for Kids to Listen to

 

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“Santa¬†Claus Bruce” by the talented Ryan T. Higgins is a picture book that is certainly as much fun (or more) for adults to read as it is for the kids listening to the story. Higgins’ wry humor coupled with the extremely expressive illustrations make for a wonderfully satisfying picture book experience.

It’s winter and Bruce wants to stay in bed, but the mice and geese have other ideas. They want holiday spirit, and they want lots of it. They deck the halls, make eggnog, and put up the Christmas tree. Needless to say, Bruce is not in the holiday mood.

While outside, grumpily shoveling snow dressed in long underwear and a warm hat, Bruce suffers from (another) case of mistaken identity. (Higgins’ fans will remember that the first case of mistaken identity was when the goslings mistook Bruce for their mother in the first book in this wonderfully humorous and touching series.) And so Bruce has now become Santa.

The hilarity and confusion continue as Bruce and the others, the geese and mice, have opposing agendas. Longtime readers know which agenda wins, and so Bruce is Santa and — unwillingly — brings a bunch of holiday cheer to all those around him.

Adults will love the double entendres as the erudite mice discuss bears and weather. “Actually, bears don’t hibernate. They spend the winter in a state of lethargy.” Another mouse responds, “I thought we were spending winter in the state of Maine.” There is one illustration of the bunny home with Mama Bunny, Papa Bunny, the baby bunnies, and the “grown-up bunny who still lives with his parents.” Kids won’t get it, but the adults reading it will.

Kids love the grumpy adult-figure and the clever and determined mice and geese and other forest animals. It’s a heartwarming Christmas tale that will be enjoyed all winter long and well into Spring.

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For younger Bruce fans, get “1 Grumpy Bruce: a counting book” by Higgins. In this sturdy board book are all the adorable forest figures (and elephants) from “1 grumpy bear” to “10 woodchucks chucking wood.” And although it’s “just” a counting board book, there is still a clever twist at the end. Trust Higgins to make a counting board book more than just a book of numbers.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Leo’s Gift’: A Touching, Truthful, and Wise Picture Book

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“Leo’s Gift,” ostensibly a children’s book but in fact a gift to all who read it — of any age — tells the story of a very young but very gifted boy who learns, quite by accident, of the amazing talent he possesses.

Leo hears his sister practicing piano as her recital day rapidly approaches. She dutifully practices her Mozart piece, but she makes it clear that she would much rather be outside practicing basketball, a sport which she loves and at which she excels. Leo, meanwhile, is entranced by the music; he begs his sister to show him how to make such beautiful sounds. She does so. He takes his turn at the piano and almost immediately is able to perform the Mozart piece impeccably. He is a “natural.”

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Holiday Books about Winter and Christmas are Perfect for Cold Weather Reading

A very sweet tale, “William’s Winter Nap” by Linda Ashman and Chuck Groenink, will warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Told in a lovely rhyming cadence, the Williams-Winter-Nap-Cover-Draftreader meets William, who has finished his hot cocoa, climbed into bed, and readied himself for a long winter’s nap. But as soon as he gets settled, there is a tap on his window. A chipmunk is cold and seeking shelter, and William welcomes him into the snuggly bed. But a knock on the door brings a porcupine begging for “a smidge of space.” Soon, more animals (who do actually hibernate) come to the door, but the last animal is a surprise. Can a bear fit into the bed with the other five? This is a sweet tale of friendship and helping animals in need. Children will love seeing how they all manage to fit. In this day of children having their own bedroom and sleeping alone, it’s fun to imagine sleeping with a posse of friends. (Disney-Hyperion Books)

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