Holidays

Written by Grace Chang, Illustrated By Chong Chang

On Monday, January 23, 2012 the Lunar New Year is here! For the next 15 days billions (literally) of people will be celebrating 2012, as the year of the dragon. Here are two of our favorite books about Chinese dragons.

For an introduction to Chinese dragons, there is no greater book than Jin Jin The Dragon. Beijing-native Grace Chang has crafted a magical story about a dragon who is searching for his identity. With help from many wise animals he meets on his quest, he gets a name, and learns what he can accomplish with his inner strength and courage.

This book chosen and reviewed by Becky Morales of Kid World Citizen.  There are lots of wonderful resources for learning more about Chinese New Year as well as a host of exciting world cultural traditions at: kidworldcitizen.org


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Cobweb Christmas COVERWritten by Shirley Climo, Illustrated by Jane Manning

How did glittering, glistening tinsel become part of the Christmas tree?

Shirely Climo takes you deep into the Bavarian forest of Germany to meet a dear little old woman who many of the local children call Auntie or “Tante”.  She lives in her tiny cottage with a bevy of animals, a small barn and – of course – a rooster to wake her up and a hen to lay an egg for her each day.

When Christmastime comes, Tante make special preparations.  She picks a tree from her forest, decorates it, fills it with her own homemade goodies and invites the local children to share it with her.  After the village children leave, it’s time to share Christmas with all the animals.  Tanta loves Christmas but each year she waits patiently and hopes for some special Christmas miracle to grace her cottage.  This book tells the story of the one year that this magic took place and how it warmed her heart and transformed her tree.

This book has lovely illustrations, adorable animals and a beautiful rhythm to it, making it a perfect story for reading aloud at the holidays as well as rekindling a sense of Christmas wonder and magic.

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Written by Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Daniel Minter

This is a wonderful folktale style story with glorious illustrations that seems to embody the very spirit of Kwanzaa.  The tale starts with a father who has lost his wife and must take care of his seven sons all by himself.  Although the sons have many blessings, it seems that all they can do is fight all day long.  However, when their father passes away, he has left them with a test.  If they turn seven spools of thread into gold in one day without fighting, they can have all that was his.

How will the boys accomplish this?  And what will be discovered when they learn to work together instead of fighting all day long?  Will they learn the seven principals of Kwanzaa during their struggle to turn thread into gold?  And will they find a way to benefit everyone in their village instead of just their own personal needs?  Pick up this beautifully illustrated book to discover how the boys solved this tough riddle and in the process, learned how to put the seven principles of Kwanzaa into action.

Without giving away more of the story, the book also mentions kente cloth and offers an easy-to-do hand weaving project (similar to those used in Africa) that is perfect for small hands or beginning crafters.  I’m off to try making a kente style belt today!

This is a beautiful book for so many reasons! Perfect for any home school or classroom library!

 

 


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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

What is a Russian Orthodox Christmas like?

Author and Illustrator, Patricia Polacco weaves a story from her own childhood memories including delightful Christmas customs practiced in various parts of Russia such as giving some grain to father frost, baking wonderful treats, making beautiful paper stars and hiding a silver coin in a bowl of mush and the one who finds it gets exceptional good luck the next year!  This book tells  of the last Christmas she and her cousins spent with her dear and funny Volodya, knows to all as Vova.  Along with all the other holiday activities, the children treasured the time that Uncle Vova would hitch up the sleigh and take everyone for a ride through the snow. When they finish their snowy adventure, he helped them decorate a beautiful tree outdoors filled with special things for the animals so “they can have Christmas, too”.  Uncle Vova tells them quietly that he’d like them to do that after he’s gone.

As you can imagine, the next Christmas is not the same without Uncle Vova, but everyone tries keep their spirits up to honor his memory.  Then they remember the special tree for the animals and go out to carry on the tradition.  But – wait – there’s something special at the tree that seems like a Christmas miracle.  Something wonderful has happened that reminds them how Uncle Vova’s spirit is still with them.

This is a beautiful book for experiencing diverse Christmas customs and for sharing the universality of marvelous miracles that can happen when the holiday spirit is afoot.  It’s also a great book for discussing loved ones who are no longer with us and how to keep their memory alive in our hearts and through meaningful traditions.


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Written By Fran Manushkin, Illustrated By Robin Spowart

This is one of my favorite Hanukkah stories!  Set in a cozy cottage in the woods, a family of four is preparing for Hanukkah and the weather becomes frightful.  During this terrible blizzard the family cannot get their potatoes for latkes or any more apples for applesauce – special foods that are a welcome part of the Hanukkah celebration.  Still the family is grateful each night as they prepare the candles and – lo and behold- out of the storm come some little miracles.  And the little miracles lead the family to another rather miraculous discovery that means their holiday table will have all they need.

A lovely and special little story that makes you feel as if you were hearing an expert storyteller weave a delightful tale from times long past.  Especially heart-warming for animal lovers, this tale involves a little stray cat and dog who not only find a home, but also a special name during this family’s beloved celebration of the festival of lights.

Suggested Reading Level – 5 and Up


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Written and Illustrated By Tomie DePaola

In the United States, Santa Claus brings presents to the children during the Christmas season.  In parts of Europe, children are visited by Saint Nick.  In  Italy, it’s Old Befana who brings gifts and goodies to the children.

But who is old Befana?  Is she a witch? A cranky old lady?  And why is she always sweeping?  Two things are certain, she’s on a search for the little Christ Child and she’s a big part of the special Christmas celebrations of this season in Italy.  Most often reenacted and celebrated on the feast of the Three Kings (January, 6th), Tomie Depaola tells her legend in a sweet and kind way, as if you were right there with her in a little Italian village long ago.

A touching and beautiful holiday story!


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Written by Deborah Heiligman

This beautiful book, written by Deborah Heiligman, is part of a series by National Geographic that highlights holidays as they are experienced around the world with the type of accurate reporting and stunning photographs that you’d expect from this publication. In this book, the common elements of Hanukkah along with it’s history and background are shared as they are celebrated in a variety of countries and cultures ranging from Uganda, India, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Canada, Peru, Poland and the United States.  For example, a picture of a lovely South Korean Hanukkah card is included here as well as photographs of children in Ghana playing dreidel in front of their family’s rural store.  This short book is a wonderful and inspiring journey through Hanukkah celebrations and is as informative as it is enjoyable!

Among the other books in this wonderful Holidays Around the World series are: (Holidays Around the World) Celebrate Diwali: With Sweets, Lights, and Fireworks, (Holidays Around the World) Celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, (Holidays Around the World) Celebrate Kwanzaa: With Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest and (Holidays Around The World) Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents, and Peace.  If you are looking to learn more about any of these special and meaningful celebrations, these books make an excellent place to start.


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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

Set in busy Union City, a kindly and portly janitor at an elementary school befriends a young boy who is being teased for being overweight.  Young Welcome Comfort is also a foster child and finally finds a special place in the hearts of Mr. Hamp and his wife who live next door to the school.  But something odd happens every Christmas as his two loving friends go away. And then there was that vivid Christmas Dream.  Telling any more about the plot will surely give away this lovely holiday story that shares a sense of kindness and compassion that are truly worthy of Christmas.

This is my favorite “Santa Claus” book because it tells such an endearing story and focuses less on the aspect of material gift-giving and more on the aspect of a St. Nick’s love and care for children. Just beautiful!


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Emma lives in a bustling city and has been watching the days get shorter and darker.  People hurry by getting ready for both Christmas and Hanukkah. One cold winter day her Dad tells her it’s time to get out the menorah and her family and extended family’s celebration of Hanukkah begins.  Later that same month, her mother takes down some beautiful boxes and tells Emma, it’s time to get the Christmas tree.  Her whole family shares Christmas preparations with more neighbors and friends.  This quiet little tale shares a thoughtful approach to respecting and cherishing both sets of holiday customs instead of choosing between them.

Perfect for reading aloud in a classroom or library to start a discussion about holiday customs and how they can be shared in a way that respects and values all participants. I especially love the last line of the book telling how the young girl has a lasting memory of the joy of both celebrations.  It tells us that she remembers “the bright lights of both celebrations long after the dark winter nights are gone.”


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Categories : Christmas, Hanukkah, Judaism
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Travel around the world to explore the many different way that people celebrate Christmas in 12 different countries and cultures.  Visited in this book are Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Philipines, Sweden and the state of Alaska in the USA.

Beautifully organized, this book has a page of well-written information and a wonderful, colorful illustration for each entry.  A “Christmas Chronology” helps you trace the background of the celebration throughout important dates in history and a section at the end of the book includes unique and unusual Christmas crafts such as Filipino style Christmas stars, an easy advent calendar and Christmas poppers and cornucopias.

Think you know all about Christmas?  Pick up this book and you’ll surely make some new and wonderful discoveries about the celebration of this beloved holiday

Suggested Reading Level –  Grades 2 – 5


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Written By Linda Glaser, Illustrated by Nancy Cote

It’s the last day of Hanukkah and Rachel and her family are getting ready for quite a celebration when the phone rings.  Guess what?  More company.  Rachel’s mom sends her to borrow potatoes for latkes and she runs over to visit her neighbor, Mrs. Greenberg.  Although Mrs. Greenberg’s house if beautifully decorated, it’s clear to Rachel that she’s spending this special day alone.

Rachel asks her to join her family while borrowing potatoes. Mrs. Greenberg says “no”. Rachel asks her to join her family while borrowing eggs. Mrs. Greenberg says “no”. But Rachel won’t take no for an answer and finds a clever way of making it a happy, joyous holiday for all.

This book also has a wonderfully simple recipe for latkes – eat them in good health!


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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

Trishia’s family lives in a rural area and loves getting ready for Hanukkah.  There’s food to cook, presents to make and so much more.  And when Trisha visits her neighbors who should be getting ready to celebrate Christmas – she finds that they are all sick and can’t get out of bed.  Her neighbors have scarlet fever and it looks like the holidays will not come to their house at all.  In this beautiful tale, friendship and the spirit of giving truly saves the day, leaving both families in awe of holiday miracles.

Based on a childhood memory from author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, this book is a perfect read-aloud and poses a wonderful question – what can you do for your neighbors or your community this holiday season?


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Categories : Christmas, Hanukkah
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Dec
19

Coming Soon

Check back later please.

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Written By and Illustrated by Ivan Gantschev, Translation by J. Allison James

Bulgarian born author and artist, Ivan Gantshev weaves a wonderful winter tale about a rabbit and a bear.  The story takes place on Christmas Eve as two hunters make their way into the forest and come upon a little bunny.  Fleeing the hunters, she takes refuge in a cave and awakens a bear who is having the most marvelous dream.  In her dream, the little bear is in a far-off country and she sees a couple looking for shelter so their baby can be born.  The dream unfolds a breath-taking description of the birth of Christ and the bear is in awe.  The rabbit helps to explain Christmas and a nearby owl shares a prophesy that the baby from the dream will help protect the poor and the weak.

Does the rabbit remain safe and secure on Christmas Eve?  What will the hungry bear do before she settles down for the rest of her winter sleep?  Check out this book and be transported into the quiet setting of a wintery woods where miracles create the most beautiful and inspiring of stories.


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Written By Valerie Tripp. Illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles

It’s going to be a difficult Christmas for Josefina and her three sisters who live on a rancho (ranch) in rural New Mexico.  Her mother passed away before the last Christmas and although her lovely Tia (Aunt) Dolores is there for them, all the girls wonder if the celebration will ever be happy again.  And then there’s Niña – the doll that was supposed to be gifted to Josefina last year by her mom.  No one knows where she is so it seems that one more happy memory will be gone for Josefina this year.

Despite all that, the family becomes busy with Christmas preparations and the book shares the beautiful Las Posadas tradition (see explanation below) as well as details of wonderful traditional foods and crafts (like “colcha” embroidery) that are part of this season’s activities.  Will Josefina be able to play Mary in Las Posadas?  Will Niña ever come back?  Will Christmas be happy again?  Check out this beautiful book to see how so many little Christmas miracles can help bring the happiness and wonder back to the season for Josefina.

Las Posadas – Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Suggested Reading Level –  Ages 8 and Up

 


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By Joan O’Brien

Is it time to hide the brooms yet?

Discover wonderful ways that people celebrate Christmas in countries that range from Great Britain, France, Australia, Greece, China, Iraq, Sweden and Norway where it is customary to hide a broom after a beautiful family feast on Christmas Eve.  Wonderful short explanations about meaningful traditions accompany beautiful black and white pictures that are truly inviting to color.

This is a great book that shares background on customs such as hanging stocking, caroling, mistletoe, yule logs and introduces so many other days and ways that people celebrate the season that heralds the birth of Christ.  Great fun as a homeschooling social studies project or just for coloring, Christmas or holiday fun.

Highly recommended. Now, to find my crayons and coloring pencils!


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Written and Illustrated by Tomie DePaulo

What is the celebration of Las Posadas?  Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Here Tomie dePaulo takes you into New Mexico near Santa Fe where the celebration happens in one night.  A young couple dress up like Joseph and Mary and walk a path lighted by beautiful luminaries (farolitos).  They ask to stay at several doorsteps in the main square and each time they are met by a devil who won’t allow them to come in. The crowd boos loudly.  But on the last attempt, they are met by kindness and the doors are thrown open and they enter the church.  DePaulo’s story shares these rich details and also a Christmas miracle when the two young people intended as Mary and Joseph cannot make it into town because of snow.  Will the celebration be ruined – or will something even more special happen?

Check out this beautiful book to find out!


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Written by Joanne Oppenheim and Illustrated by Fabian Negrin

This book shares another beautiful version of the Mexican Legend of how a simple weed became a beautiful gift for the Baby Jesus, because it was given with love.   The story takes place during Las Posadas (see explanation below) when Joseph and Mary’s quest to find a place to stay in Bethlehem is reenacted.  Little Lucinda is sad because her family has fallen on heard times and she does not have a gift to bring to the alter – a custom in Mexico during the nights before Christmas.  An angelic voice tells her to gather weeds and – embarrassed – she does so.  As she walks down the long aisle to the church, the whole congregation gasps because her simple weeds have burst into bloom as beautiful poinsettias.

This book has a bit more detail then the Tomie DePaulo “Legend of the Pointsettia” and boasts lovely dream-like illustrations by Argentinian artist, Fabian Negrin. The Miracle of the First Poinsettia also shares the music to a lovely Mariachi song sung during this time of year called El Rorro (the babe) .  However, both stories share the wonder of this legend, the joy of Christmas miracles and a lovely explanation of why this beautiful flower shines so brightly in so many houses at holiday times.

Las Posadas – Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.


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Retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

A beautiful Mexican folktale about how a “useless weed” became a Christmas miracle and a special gift for the baby Jesus (el Niño Jesus). Tomie de Paulo has a gift for creating and illustrating wonderful stories that take you right into the culture he is sharing.  In this story you travel to rural Mexico and share a story about little Lucinda who wants to help her mother weave a special blanket for the town’s Nativity celebration.  But when her mom becomes sick and she can’t accomplish the task herself – she is downhearted.  Right then, a miracle helps save the day and shows the value of any gift that is given from the heart.

An inspiring tale about what it really means to give.


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Written by Jean Richardson, Illustrated By Alice Englander

Set in a medieval court, this book creates a beautiful story around the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”.  The book centers around a little page named Stephen during the time of the Feast of Stephen, the second day of Christmas (December 26th).  The young page is smaller then the others and often teased, so he wonders why he’s being called before the king.  Instead of a scolding, the King asks him to join him on a Christmas trek through the blinding snow to help one of his poorest subjects who lives deep in the woods.

As you might guess, little Stephen sets out on this journey cold, angry and resentful to miss the Christmas festivities at the castle.  However, he returns delighted, happy and transformed for having experienced the real meaning of Christmas love and charity.  A beautiful book for children and adults, especially for reading aloud!


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