December 24, 2015


Won’t You Be My Kissaroo? By Joanne Ryder. Illustrations by Melissa Sweet. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $6.99.

Scholastic Year in Sports 2016. By James Buckley, Jr., with Jim Gigliotti. Scholastic. $9.99.

     As the year’s end approaches – and with it, of course, a new year’s beginning – there are some traditions, beyond holiday celebrations, in which families can indulge again and again. Reading or re-reading much-loved books is one of the more pleasant of these. There is always time to rediscover, or discover for the first time, Joanne Ryder’s warmly silly Won’t You Be My Kissaroo? Originally published in 2004 and now available in paperback, it takes the made-up word “kissaroo,” which is what Ryder says she always calls her loved ones, and applies it to a variety of anthropomorphic animals in a number of different situations. There is the sheeps’ morning kiss, “full of sun,” and the bears’ breakfast kiss, “nice and sweet” because of all that honey, and a butterfly’s hello kiss, “soft as rain,” and a playful kiss from a little frog wearing black-polka-dotted red galoshes. The expressions of the animals, both the kiss givers and the kiss recipients, are adorable, and there is even a bit of a plot to go along with the kissing – carried forward by wordless pages on which Melissa Sweet’s illustrations, which really are sweet, move the story along. That plot involves “a gotcha kiss” that turns out to be the start of a surprise birthday party with, of course, a birthday kiss – and with all the kissing and kissable animals in attendance. Ryder and Sweet carry the book charmingly past the sheep’s birthday party into nighttime and “a bedtime kiss” to “tuck you tight/ and keep you cozy through the night.” Won’t You Be My Kissaroo? does make a wonderful bedtime story, but it is really a tale for anytime, a kissably cute and cutely kissable little touch of enjoyment that makes for a lovely little holiday tradition or, for that matter, an any-time-of-the-year tradition.

     A tradition specific to the end of each year, at least for sports fans, is a look back at how their favorite teams and players fared in the year that is ending. For young sports lovers, Scholastic Year in Sports 2016 can be an enjoyable and highly visual way to do just that. The book is a (+++) volume, not so much because its title really should refer to 2015 as because the exigencies of traditional book publishing mean the information in the book includes only results through August 2015 – that is, through the first eight months of the year prior to the year given in the book’s title. Even young sports fans will presumably understand that a book made available during 2015 cannot possibly be a “2016” book (it’s a 2016 edition, from the publisher’s viewpoint, but that is not the same thing); and readers immersed in the Internet will presumably comprehend that old-style printed books cannot have up-to-the-minute information in them. What, then, would the attraction of this book be? Well, it is brightly, breezily and briefly written, with an attractively busy layout and lots and lots of player pictures. Its information on 2014 is complete, and it offers some interesting commentary, for example by calling 2014 a “season of surprises” in major league baseball and then explaining why. For sports events that were completed by August 2015, it offers both accuracy and, in many cases, historical perspective: the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division I championship was won by Duke, the Women’s Division I by Connecticut, and the book lists all winners going back to 1939 for men and 1982 for women. There are many lists of past winners here, and they will interest fans of multiple sports. There is a complete list for the Super Bowl, for example, going back to the very first one, in 1966, and giving for each game the winning team, losing team, score, and place where the game was played. Super Bowl XLIX was played in 2015 but was for the 2014 season, and it is included, although of course there is no way to give information on the actual 2015 National Football League results. Fans of the major professional and college sports will find a fair amount of material in Scholastic Year in Sports 2016; fans of less widely followed sports get only a smattering of material. The Triple Crown victory by American Pharoah [sic], for instance, gets only brief coverage, although it was arguably one of the most significant sports occurrences of 2015. Ice skating gets almost none: two short paragraphs, a total of less than half a page – substantially less space than is given to kabbadi, a game with elements of tag and wrestling that is popular in India and Pakistan. Yet learning a bit about sports that are unknown in North America can be fun, and is one thing young fans will get from a book like this one but not from the Internet, where serendipity is difficult to come by. Taken as a whole, Scholastic Year in Sports 2016 is a pleasant, highly visual, once-over-lightly look at a variety of 2014 and early-2015 events – a book without much staying power, but one that fans will enjoy reading as the new year approaches, to remind themselves of some game and player highlights from the recent past. Looking back is, after all, a common tradition for sports fans and non-fans alike.

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