Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Themed Reviews: Merry Christmas

            A holiday that is now religious, cultural, and commercial, the history of Christmas celebrations is fascinating. If you were in the Middle Ages you might mistake Christmas for Mardi Gras as celebrations were boisterous and unruly. If you lived in Boston during the mid-1600s you would not have celebrated at all—the holiday was outlawed and law-breakers were fined five shillings. You may not have always had a Christmas tree either: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert introduced the German tradition to their Windsor Castle home in 1846, popularizing the tree in western culture.

            In the United States, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in 1870. Some traditions like eggnog are first thought to have been consumed by the settlers at Jamestown in 1607. Others, like the Rockefeller Center tree began later, in 1931. Not always depicted as a jolly old man in red, the legend of Santa Claus dates back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas, the original basis of this Christmas figure.

            Today, while some celebrations are fairly universal every family has their own unique traditions and ways of observing this holiday. Do you have a have a favorite tradition? Try searching CLCD with key words to see if any books feature your Christmas tradition. http://www.childrenslit.com/childrenslit/th_xmas.php

For more information and activities visit:

The Money We'll Save
Brock Cole

Ma sends Pa to the market because the children are busy with their chores. All Pa had to do was buy two eggs and a half pound of flour so that Ma could make supper. She cautions him that they must save their money because Christmas will be arriving soon. Pa was doing well with his shopping until the chicken man convinces Pa to buy a young turkey to fatten up for Christmas. Just think of the money saved by feeding table scraps to the turkey that they can have it for Christmas dinner. On the other hand, imagine raising a turkey in a small apartment with a family of six during the nineteenth century. Pa brings home the turkey which the children named Alfred. Soon Alfred quickly outgrows his box by the stove. The family makes many more accommodations to keep the turkey. When Christmas Eve arrives, they face a big problem that they must resolve. The watercolor illustrations support the events and hilarious antics that occur in the story. The sepia-colored illustrations on the end pages set the tone of the story's time frame. Readers will enjoy this heartwarming holiday story. 2011, Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 5 to 9, $16.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-374-35011-6

Monday, December 19, 2011

Themed Reviews: Happy Hanukkah

            Hanukkah, meaning "dedication" in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev—part of the Hebrew calendar—and lasts eight days. This year Hanukkah is celebrated on December 20th until the 28th.

            In 168 BCE the Temple of Jerusalem had been desecrated and Jews murdered by the Syrians, led by Antiochus IV. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. When the Temple was being cleansed and rebuilt, there was only enough olive oil—needed for the menorah in the Temple which was required to burn throughout the night every night as part of the ceremony—to last one day, yet it burned for eight days.

            Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is observed by the lighting of the Menorah, a candelabrum with nine branches. Each night one candle is lit, continuing for eight nights. The ninth branch on the menorah, which is called the shamash, is typically positioned in the center and raised above the other branches; it is used to light the other candles.

            The story of Hanukkah does not appear in the Torah because the events that the holiday commemorates occurred after the holy book was written. It is a relatively minor holiday in Jewish faith but due to its overlap with Christmas has, particularly in North America, grown into a larger commercial holiday.

            The books in this feature are recently published titles to use in the classroom, library, and at home with young readers. To discover more titles search CLCD www.clcd.com for "Hanukkah." http://www.childrenslit.com/childrenslit/th_hanukkah.php

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah
Olga Ivanov and Aleksey Ivanov

Three generations of a Jewish family, plus their goofy dog, celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah with the “other” traditional song. Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah doesn't have quite the cachet of I Have a Little Dreidel with elementary school choirs, but perhaps this will give teachers an overdue alternative. The song sheet is printed in the front of the book with an after note that explains the tune's origin as a 19th century folk song to which Hebrew words were added. The joyous, smiling family lights the Hanukkiah and eats a traditional dinner that includes latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. Mom, dad, the kids and the dog dance a happy hora while the candles burn and the children open simple gifts, a flute and a dreidel. This brings to mind the Hanukkah Harry skit on Saturday Night Live where Jewish children got underwear for the holiday to explain why it doesn't compete with Christmas. However, the dog seems ecstatic with his holiday bone. Grandad, father, and son are wearing kippot for the celebration, but all indications are that this is a modernly observant family. The illustrations are the best part of the book—bright, cheery, and with a final reminder of the holiday's origins depicted by an ancient Hebrew family lighting candles in the son's imagination. Overall, this will be a winner for holiday sharing of an old, familiar song. 2011, The PJ Library/Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Ages 3 to 7, $12.99. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780761458456