It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Gymboree (Nasdaq: GYMB) reported a strong holiday season and boosted its fourth-quarter outlook; its shares have gained nearly 16% since then. Children's Place (Nasdaq: PLCE), on the other hand, saw good results in one of its brands and horrible numbers in the other, sending the stock down 18% in one day.

Both companies had to contend with the same shaky consumer confidence, rising oil prices, Jupiter aligning with Mars, and so forth. Gymboree's management thanked everyone from its designers and manufacturers to the marketing team that drove new customers into the arms of the "fantastic sales associates." What's gonna work? Teamwork!

And so the fourth-quarter outlook turned brighter, raising the company's earnings floor to $0.88 per share from the original $0.78-per-share guidance. Same-store sales increased by "mid to high single digits" over last year. This operation is clearly firing on all cylinders right now.

The same story can't be told over at the Children's Place. The company's eponymous stores saw a decent 2% comparable-stores revenue gain over last December, but management didn't thank anybody for that feat, instead explaining it with management decisions like inventory levels and big sales. Passing the buck was easy, though -- Disney (NYSE: DIS) got the blame for declining comps in the Disney Store concept, because Cars was such a blockbuster last year that Ratatouille couldn't beat it this time.

Okay, so Lightning McQueen pulled in $244 million in domestic theater receipts, according to Box Office Mojo. Remy and Linguini only managed $206 million. The DVD release figures are harder to come by, so the box office will have to be our proxy for holiday disc sales.

Pardon me, but that race was close enough that some spirited merchandising could have made up for the difference. I'm not buying the rats-versus-cars excuse. Especially since the spokesperson said that "media comps were positive for the month, albeit a small portion of overall sales" at the end of the presentation.

In my review of Gymboree's latest quarterly report, I wondered whether a macroeconomic meltdown would separate the retailer wheat from the chaff, and finally give ol' Gymbo the respect and valuation it deserves. While many strong retailers ended the last month of 2007 with negative comps, Gymboree showed respectable positive numbers. But the company still trades at a discounted forward P/E of 11 compared to rivals like Gap (NYSE: GPS) and Target (NYSE: TGT), which sell for 14 and 13 times forward earnings, respectively. That just doesn't sound right.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Disney and Gymboree shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and it is a far, far better rest he goes to than he has ever known. Foolish disclosure is your candle in the wind at 2 a.m.