Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holidays Around the World: National Geographic

National Geographic's new Holidays Around the World series, written by Deborah Heiligman.

National Geographic's purpose is to introduce "readers in grades one to four to different religious and cultural holidays celebrated around the world."

It meets its objective. The format for the books is similar: information about the holiday, both historical and cultural, written in a clear, straightforward manner. Colorful photos and pictures fill the book. The holiday is shown being celebrated around the world; the origins are explained, along with how it is celebrated in the present; and at the ending there is a notes section, with more detailed information, including a message from the consultant for that particular book. The end section is geared towards adults, either teacher or parent.

I enjoyed each book; each was a great introduction to kids, with just enough information to give a sense of the holiday. Each book also showed things that all kids can identify with: time spent with family, special foods, various games and other traditions.

Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes, and Dreidels A world wide view of the holiday is provided, with photos from Israel, the US, Peru, and Ghana, among others. I think my favorite photo was the oil lamp from the 7th century. The additional notes include how to play dreidel and a recipe for potato latkes.

Celebrate Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr with Praying, Fasting and Charity As with the Hanukkah book, photos are from all over the world (only South America was not included.) People are shown eating and praying; but they are also shown living their life as usual (which is typical for Ramadan). Favorite photo this time: the girls from Sydney, Australia practicing karate. The end notes contain an explanation of the Muslim calendar and a recipe for Fatima's fingers.

Celebrate Diwali with Sweets, Lights, and Fireworks I was a bit disappointed with the photos here, because no European or South American country was represented; neither was Australia. That said -- the photos were gorgeous. The rice flour designs alone are worth the book. The book also makes clear that Hindus celebrate in different ways. My favorite photo: actually, two: the satellite photos of India during Diwali and after is a dramatic illustration of just how "lit up" the country is during the holiday.

Celebrate Thanksgiving With Turkey, Family and Counting Blessings It's nice to see this title included in the series; because even tho these books are to introduce cultures from around the world, kids in the US will be sitting in a class with kids who celebrate Hanukkah, Ramadan and Diwali. Including this makes the whole series less an introduction to "other" cultures and more an introduction to all "our" cultures. My favorite photo: Macy's Day Parade.

Of the 32 pages in Celebrating Thanksgiving, eight are about 1621. I read these pages along with Deconstructing the Myths of "The First Thanksgiving" from Oyate, and this book did not perpetuate the myths. Sample language: "We hear about what we call the 'first Thanksgiving.' In 1621, new English settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrated a good harvest. . . . The Wampanoag had been having festivals of thanks for many years." Other points made in the text: an earlier English celebration in Virginia; that the English "came to be called" Pilgrims; that the Wampanoags lived there already; that traditional Thanksgiving food "came later"; and also the acknowledgement that "The history of what happened between European settlers and Native Americans is a sad one. . . . Today some Indians mourn on Thanksgiving." (I'm trying not to quote the entire book!)

The book includes a detailed timeline that starts 10,000 years before 1620. There is also mention of harvest festivals around the world.

Links: The Edge of the Forest reviews. The Author's website has interesting information on the writing process for each book, which includes asking you for your favorite holiday recipe or memory.

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