May 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Spring Holiday Roundup | Reviews

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This is the first of a series of quarterly seasonal roundups, instead of calling out individual holidays. By compiling fiction and nonfiction books about all of the various festivals and cultural celebrations that come across our desks within the given time frame, we are hopeful that our coverage of these red letter days will be more inclusive and extensive over time. We welcome your feedback and recommendations.


Berger, Carin. All of Us. illus. by Carin Berger. 40p. Harper/Greenwillow. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062694133.

PreS-Gr 1 –A delightful meditation on love and community. The prose reads like a song, and the story is simple and universal. In elongated rhyming verse (“When your heart is heavy/And your step unsure/When the winds are wild/And your path unclear”), the narrator reassures readers of their steadfast love through even the darkest times, and shares with them the hope for a bright future. The narrative is accompanied by collage illustrations made with paper and print ephemera. Some spreads are filled with complex, multicolored, layered patterns and colors, while other return to minimalistic designs with only a few simple shapes. Each line of text is paired beautifully with an illustration and the pacing throughout is thoughtful and cumulative. On the final pages, the message, “For love wins,” is accompanied by a line of people of varying ages, races, and religions holding hands. As the art builds to a joyful and bright finish, the book ends with the powerful and enduring words, “Love will never fail.” V­ERDICT Useful as a soothing bedtime selection or as a short read-aloud. Perfect for sharing on Valentine’s Day and every day.–Laken Hottle, Providence Community Library

Chin, Oliver. The Year of the Dog. illus. by Miah Alcorn. 40p. (Tales from the ­Chinese Zodiac). Immedium. Dec. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781597021364.

PreS-Gr 2 –Daniel the puppy wants to protect human Lin from the mythical creatures his father told him about—but after mistaking a rooster for a phoenix and a rat for a dragon, he needs to learn patience. When Lin takes a walk on a picnic and comes across the path of a tiger, Daniel finally gets his chance. Improbably, it is the puppy’s barking, instead of the tiger’s roaring, that alerts others to the danger. Last year’s Year of the Rooster completed Chin’s “Tales of the Zodiac” series, so this year sees a rerelease of 2006’s Year of the Dog, with an added Chinese translation (simplified characters). However, this first volume remains overly long with clunky language and an unexciting, lagging plot. Appearances by the other zodiac animals are sometimes organic, but often seem shoehorned. VERDICT Libraries that have later volumes in the series should not feel obligated to backfill their collections with this update.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Higgins, Carter. This Is Not a Valentine. ­illus. by Lucy Ruth Cummins. 48p. Chronicle. Feb. 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452153742.

Gr 1-3 –A little boy in a yellow shirt and glasses likes a girl in his grade school class. He brings her things like gumball machine jewelry that matches her shoelaces and his lucky rock. None of these gestures, among others, are valentines, he insists. After all, he likes this girl not just one day, but all the days. Almost every other page has the text and title of the book, “this is not a valentine,” with not underlined. This proclamation is followed by a signal of everyday affection from the boy to the girl. Multimedia illustrations that mimic childlike drawings made with crayons and makers reinforce the grade school setting. As a children’s picture book, the tender message of everyday acts of affection, as opposed to grand and less frequent gestures, is quite intellectual. Therefore, this book would make a good book for discussion with older children after it has been shared. VERDICT This enduring message of friendship should give this title a longer and broader shelf life than just another Valentine’s Day book.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services

Jie, Wei. Home for Chinese New Year: A Story Told in English and Chinese. illus. by Xu Can. 36p. Better Link Pr. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781602209992.

PreS-Gr 2 –In order to return to his family for the New Year, Jiajun’s father takes a train, a long-distance bus, a three-wheeled motorcycle, a ferry, and eventually a long walk through a heavy snowstorm. Along the way he loses an apple, his gloves, and other items, but not a very special present for Jiajun—readers will enjoy searching the illustrations for the missing objects. The child frequently checks in with his father via cell phone, appearing in small black-and-white drawings next to the warm watercolor illustrations showing the man’s journey. Once home, the boy and his father celebrate the New Year and enjoy their time together until it’s time to return to the big city far away where Jiajun’s father works in construction. By centering on the long journey home, young readers will be reassured that faraway parents miss their children just as much as they are missed. The story is told in both English and Chinese (simplified characters) with a brief cultural note at the end. VERDICT A heartwarming tale about the lengths family will go through to be together during the holidays; this will find fans in most collections.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Murray, Laura. The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School. illus. by Mike Lowrey. 32p. Putnam. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101996942.

K-Gr 2 –The latest installation in the “Gingerbread Man”series is a festive St. Patrick’s Day tale. A sneaky, tricky Leprechaun is turning thing topsy-turvy at school, and the Gingerbread Man is determined to catch him and prevent him from making any more mischief. Following the wee man’s clues and the messes he leaves behind, the Gingerbread Man devises a perfect trap and finally outwits the tiny nuisance, forcing him to put things back in order. The final page promises more shenanigans, as the Leprechaun declares that he will be back! With a nod to all of the funny and classic tricks teachers conduct on Saint Patrick’s Day (green toilet water, shamrock footprints, and messy rooms) this book is sure to please readers of all ages. VERDICT A welcome addition to any library that has great potential to be a fun and entertaining read-aloud.–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh

Sehgal, Kabir & Surishtha Sehgal. Festival of Colors. illus. by Vashti Harrison. 32p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481420495.

PreS-Gr 3 –Brother and sister Chintoo and Mintoo are getting ready for Holi, the Indian festival of colors. Their process is slowly revealed as the siblings gather petals, dry and separate them, and then crush the dried petals into powders. Lively digital illustrations show the children’s excited family members and neighbors carrying the powders through the streets, and then “POOF!” wet and dry powders fly through the air in a rambunctious celebration. Readers will learn from the book’s endnotes that Holi celebrates “inclusiveness, new beginnings, and the triumph of good over evil.” This is useful information, but the real beauty of this attractive book is that it shows the country’s home life and community togetherness beyond the holiday celebration. Children in primary grades will find this an accessible read, whereas younger patrons can enjoy it as a read-aloud and learn about colors and cultural festivals in an engaging way. VERDICT A must-buy for picture book sections that will delight children regardless of their familiariy with the holiday.–­Henrietta Verma, National Information Standards ­Organization, Baltimore

Singh, Rina. Holi Colors. 24p. Orca. Feb. 2018. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459818491.

PreS-K –This board book has the primary purpose of teaching young children the names of colors. Each page contains a photograph of children enjoying the Hindu festival by tossing and reveling in the colored powders thrown to welcome the coming of spring. The book not only teaches about the colors, but is a great way to introduce the occasion to young children who do not celebrate Holi. It is also a wonderful cultural connection for children who are Hindu and who will recognize themselves in the pages. VERDICT A unique color book that goes beyond teaching about color to celebrate and teach about a Hindu celebration.–Peggy Henderson Murphy, Wyandot Elementary School, Dublin, OH


Khan, Ausma Zehanat. Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting. 88p. Orca. Mar. 2018. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781459811812.

Gr 2-5 –Khan explains the religious practice to young readers. Filled with vibrant color photographs, the book explains in detail the events and rituals of the spiritual month of the Muslim faith. It is broken into chapters and follows the experiences of several children as well as Olympic fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad explains how she trains differently during Ramadan. The children share what it is like to fast and the various projects they take on during that time. The book shares holy traditions from countries around the world such as Egypt, Kenya, and India. There are recipes for families to try while they break their fast at sundown. VERDICT This is a comprehensive book of facts and experiences for any child who is learning about what it means to follow Islam. A solid choice for children seeking to learn more about the faith for assignments or to satisfy their own intellectual curiosity.–Kris Hickey, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH

Lee, Jen Sookfong. Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone. 88p. (Orca Origins). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. Orca. Oct. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781459811263.

Gr 3-6 –This is a slight but visually colorful introduction to the Chinese New Year. It is aimed at upper elementary schoolers, who will find short chapters, bright photos on every page, engaging personal stories, and informative sidebars (including a brief one on the Lunar celebration in other Asian cultures). Myth, history, politics, varying traditions, and family lore make the book useful for teachers as well. Text and glossary silently employ Romanized Cantonese for “Chinese,” even when significantly different from Mandarin (e.g., lai see vs. hóngbāo). Many photos are from Vancouver; others could use more specific captions (e.g., the temple on page 14 is actually in Kuala Lumpur). On the plus side are three recipes, an index, and a bibliography. VERDICT An optional addition to holiday or cultural collections.–Patricia D. Lothrop, formerly at St. George’s School, Newport, RI

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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