Monday, December 5, 2011

There are many ways to celebrate....

Lee and Low Books recently sent me several of their holiday/celebration books that tell about the many ways that holidays are celebrated around the world. Two of the books they sent me are The Road to Santiago and Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures.

by DH Figueredo
Illustrated by Pablo Torrecilla
Grades 1-4, Reading Level 2-3

The Road to Santiago is the story of a boy in 1958 living in Cuba when the government is attacked by Rebels making it almost impossible for Alfredito and his Mami and Papi to travel to see his Abuela and all of his cousins and aunts and uncles during the Christmas Holidays. By using ingenuity and with the help of friends and strangers Alfredito and his family go on an action-packed adventure by car and bus and eventually reach Santiago

The story is written in English with many Spanish words included throughout the story. This is a great story to read with children 5+ and for children comfortable reading on their own. Many of the Spanish words are family based and your children will sympathize with Alfredito's concern that they will miss the family's traditional Christmas celebration and all of the special foods his Abuela prepares for them. Your children will also learn about the traditional foods served for the Cuban Christmas holiday - roasted pork, yucca, fried plantains and rice and beans. 

Some of the words your children will hear and learn about are:
Abuela - "Grandmother"
Villancicos - Christmas Carols
La misa del gallo - the rooster's mass (midnight mass)
Noche Buena - the night before Christmas
Turrones - a nougat candy from Spain
Bunuelo - a pastry shaped like the #8, served hot and dripping with honey
Feliz Navidad - Merry Christmas

As a family learning about other traditions during the holidays you can:
1. Talk about how your children would feel if they couldn't go to Grandma's house for the holidays (or have presents, eat turkey - whatever tradition is special to your family). Would they be disappointed? (Note Christmas was banned in 1969 in Cuba and Christmas wasn't allowed to be celebrated until recently - for older kids this might be a good time to talk a little about religious persecution & athism - maybe wait until 1/6 which is when the Cubans celebrate with gifts. Christmas is saved for remembering the birth of Christ)
2. Make Bunuelo (Recipe). This recipe is a little different than what Alfredito has in the book but I think you can shape the dough into 8's, use honey instead of sugar & cinnamon if you'd like.
3. Talk with your children about your families Christmas traditions and Alfredito's family traditions and how they are different.
4. Help your children find Cuba on a map or globe and then help them find America. They can make a flag or illustrate the story with a picture they draw.

Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures Cover

Another book that I was sent is by Jan Reynolds who is known for her series on Vanishing Cultures (watch for my review of 3 of her books in January). Jan is an award winning photographer and writer for the National Geographic, The New York Times and Outside magazine. The Vanishing Cultures series is a group of photo-essays for children recognized as Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People.

by Jan Reynolds
ISBN: 9781584302537
Grades 1-4, Reading Level 3-4

Celebrate invites your family on a journey learning about traditions, music, food and dance used in celebrations and holidays around the world. Visit the Balinese, Americans, Aboriginales, Amazon, the Inuit of Alaska and more. The vivid photographs show the costumes, design and dance in bright colors that stand out and your kids will study the pictures and the details for hours.

Author/photographer Jan Reynolds has traveled the world and has lived with the families featured in this book. She says "I wanted to learn more about what people around the world honor as sacred and important in their lives. That's why I searched far and wide for indigenous tribes as a way of walking back into the past. I wanted to learn about the basic ways of human expression. Participating in rituals and celebrations gave me a window into human culture in a way nothing else could. I hope readers will come away with a feeling that we as human beings, are so much alike."

Both of these books can be ordered on Lee and Low's website where they have many books focusing on multi-ethnic, worldwide cultures and diversity. Be sure to check them out here.

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