CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 12. . . .November 20, 2009
Designed for young readers, the “Celebrations in My World” series is comprised of 15 titles, most of which have 14 chapters as well as a table of contents, a glossary and an index. Each title examines the history, traditions, beliefs and celebrations of the featured holiday. Written in kid-friendly language, the text is printed in a large, simple font on coloured backgrounds, adding visual appeal. Abundant, vibrant colour photographs, drawings and maps highlight the main concepts, while “Did you know?” arcs provide additional information. Though many of the holiday celebrations revolve around family get-togethers and special dinners, a few of the titles have far too many photos of families gathered around the dinner table. Surely there are other photos that would suit the text just as well to avoid repetition. Another drawback is that there is a definite American slant to the many of the titles, but perhaps this is the author’s/publisher’s way of capitalizing on the larger American market.
Earth Day was first proposed by activist John McConnell at a conference in San Francisco, CA. Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated throughout the world, bringing attention to environmental concerns and encouraging people to reduce, reuse and recycle. In Earth Day, readers will learn about changes in environmental laws, Earth Day symbols and how people in different parts of the globe celebrate this holiday. There are a few ideas on how to reduce energy consumption all year long. One minor flaw of this title is in the double-page spread about Earth Day symbols. Two flags are mentioned, the green and white ecology flag on the right-facing page and the blue Earth Day flag on the left-facing page. Yet the photos have been reversed so that the text and the photos do not match.
Halloween had its beginnings with the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain during which the people lit bonfires and wore costumes to scare spirits away. In Halloween, there is information about the customs behind some of the current day practices such as dressing up in costumes or masks, trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins. Common symbols of the holiday- bats, ghosts, spiders, witches, bats and jack-o-lanterns- are featured along with legends, games (e.g. bobbing for apples), and some safety tips for trick-or-treating. Typically, Hallowe’en is the time that children raise funds for UNICEF. Although the organization is mentioned in this title, its acronym is not explained.
In the United States, the third Monday in January is a federal holiday honouring civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Even though slavery was abolished in 1865, some U.S. states passed laws to create segregation, thereby forcing African-Americans to live, worship and work apart from white people. King and other civil rights leaders fought for equality and freedom for all and encouraged people to stand up for their rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides information about King’s background, his organization of marches, sit-ins and boycotts and his work that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. This title also features the various ways in which people all over America celebrate this special holiday.
Passover examines the history behind the Jewish festival which celebrates the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. The traditional foods and practices associated with this eight-day festival are also discussed. There are a few minor flaws in this title: firstly, it lacks an explanation of the symbolism of each of the foods on the Seder plate, and, secondly, it is not true that Jewish people eat only matzah during Passover.
Thanksgiving had its beginnings thousands of years ago when ancient peoples gave thanks for bountiful harvests. Most people, however, associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth in New England in 1620 and invited their Native American friends to a feast in the fall of 1621 as an expression of gratitude to the natives for having taught them what crops to plant. It became an official holiday in 1789 in the U.S. and in 1957 in Canada. Traditional foods, symbols (e.g. the cornucopia and Indian corn), activities (e.g. the Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and the president’s pardoning of the turkey), and family celebrations, including watching football on television, are highlighted in Thanksgiving along with the importance of helping those in need. There is only a double-page spread devoted to the Canadian holiday.
Providing a general introduction to the various holidays, the reviewed titles are fairly basic with a lot of “filler’ material, thereby limiting their usefulness. Generally speaking, the entire series is somewhat inconsistent in that some titles are more informative than others.
Recommended with reservations.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.