Friday, April 11, 2014

Time to Celebrate

The two most important holidays in the Jewish and Christian faiths are right around the corner: Passover begins the evening of April 14 and ends the evening of April 22 (Jewish holidays and the Sabbath always begin and end at sunset), while the Christian Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday on April 13 and ends with Easter on April 20.  It's not too late to pick up books on your holiday of choice!

National Geographic's Holidays Around the World is an excellent series that looks at the history and culture behind significant holidays. Celebrate Easter With Colored Eggs, Flowers, And Prayer teaches readers about the many traditions and customs centered around Easter;  Celebrate Passover With Matzah, Maror, And Memories is a look at the history of Passover and the ways Jewish families around the world celebrate it.  As can be expected from National Geographic, the photographs are interesting and inviting.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Gail Gibbons's nonfiction books are ideal for elementary school students able to read short nonfiction books. Her Easter  nonfiction picture book is a succinct look at the religious and secular observations of Easter, complete with appealing cartoon-like illustrations.

Here Comes the Easter Cat has not lingered long on our new books shelf; with its arrival so near Easter, it's been as popular as hot cross buns straight from the oven.  It's a hilarious and clever tale of a cat determined to usurp the Easter Bunny...until it finds out how hard the Easter Bunny actually works (the ending hints at the cat's aspirations to replace another beloved holiday figure...that sequel will be out in the fall!).

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah is obviously a take on the traditional folktale, but with a Jewish twist (Yiddish words are even sprinkled throughout the narrative). You can guess how the story goes: no one wants to help Little Red Hen bake the passover matzah (a glossary of terms is included to explain words and aspects of the holiday) until her Passover table is set.  Instead of shunning her friends, the Little Red Hen understands that Passover is a family/community event, so she invites them to celebrate (they DO help with the clean-up).  Normally, I'm not a fan of rewriting fairy/folktales to make them "nice," but this one is such a charmer that I can't resist it.

While there are many things I love about Easter and springtime in general, one of the things I really enjoy are new dresses and shoes for the warmer spring days.  However, I'm not a hat person, so a new Easter hat is not part of my outfit (although I LOVE looking at fine millinery). Miz Fannie Mae's Fine New Easter Hat is a charming story about an Easter hat that literally comes alive during an Easter service!

The Passover Lamb  fits my wish list for holiday books: any book that, in addition to being well written, presents a new aspect or angle to the story immediately catches my attention.  There aren't many stories of Jewish families that live in the country, so this sweet tale of a young girl who must care for the unexpected arrival of triplet lambs, at the expense of missing the Passover Seder at her grandmother's house, is a beautiful and joyful read for Passover. One of my favorites from 2013.

The Yankee at the Seder also presents a Passover story in a unique way, for it looks at Jewish life on both the Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War.  When a Jewish Union soldier stumbles across a Jewish Virginia family about to observe their Seder meal, he is invited to join the family, even though he fights for the Union Army. The solider and the family discuss the meaning of freedom as it pertains to Passover and the Civil War. This is a thoughtful story based on a true story; author Elka Weber includes information on Cpl. Myer Levy, upon whom the story is based.

If you'd like a more sacred approach to the holidays, browse the selections in the J 226 section for religious Easter titles and the J 296.437 section for religious Passover titles.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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