CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 25 . . . . March 1, 2013
Part of the 10-volume "Cultural Traditions in My World" series designed for young readers, this book discusses the various holidays, festivals and celebrations which occur during the course of a year in Australia. A bright, attractive and colourful cover is sure to entice readers. Like the other books in the series, Cultural Traditions in Australia has 14 chapters with the holidays arranged chronologically. Topics include the religious, political, seasonal or family significance of the holiday as well as some of the foods, customs and activities associated with it. "Did you know?" boxes provide interesting trivia, while vibrant colour photographs add to the book's visual appeal. The inclusion of a map of the world, showing Australia's location, would have been beneficial. Text is printed in a large, simple font suitable for the book's intended audience. More careful editing is needed on a few pages. For example, the text states that many Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year in January, yet Chinese New Year, which is based on the lunar calendar, can also be celebrated in February; there is no explanation given for Easter, the text merely discusses the activities that take place at Easter time; some of the "Did you know?" boxes are only slightly related to the featured topic; and a couple of the labels accompanying photographs are somewhat misleading (one example is a photo of some costumed performers sitting on the grass, yet the label states that "these people are taking part in a Chinese New Year parade"). Young readers will have difficulty understanding the words "colonization' and "reconciliation" as they apply to Mabo Day, which honours a man who fought for the rights of Aboriginal peoples whose lands had been taken away from them by British settlers. All of these are fairly minor flaws, but a more significant flaw is that Aboriginal festivals do not figure prominently in this book. There is just one double-page spread that gives only general information. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are provided.
Among others, holidays showcased in this book include Australia Day which is celebrated in a variety of ways, one of which is to honor citizens who have made important contributions to their communities; ANZAC Day, much like Canada's Remembrance Day; Ekka Day, which is actually an agricultural show where farmers and breeders come to learn about new farming equipment and to display some of their crops and livestock; and Melbourne Cup Day, a horse race. Readers will be surprised to learn that in Australia, Easter eggs are hidden by the Easter bilby, a type of marsupial, and not by the Easter bunny.
Despite its minor flaws, Cultural Traditions in Australia will serve as a good introduction to Australian holidays and will be of use in the primary classroom.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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