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This week, Education World adds to its list of holiday resources with Christmas and Hanukkah books for the youngest readers that feature flaps that lift and wheels that spin, a book of Christmas poems, and for older readers, a guide to holidays celebrated the world over.

Among this week's books are Christmas and Hanukkah books that should appeal to new and nonreaders. In addition, you'll read about an excellent any-age guide to holidays celebrated all over the world; although the book covers a year's worth of observances, December seems as good a time as any to add it to your "wish list."



Book Cover Image For an introduction to the celebration of Hanukkah for children ages four through eight, Light the Candles: A Hanukkah Lift-the-Flap Book (Puffin Books), written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Lynne Cravath, works well on a few different levels. Light the Candles is a colorful picture book and a counting book for the numbers one through eight. Each two-page spread takes place on one of the eight nights of Hanukkah and features a simple four-line verse that describes something special about Hanukkah or the time of year.

In each spread, a flap lifts to reveal something pleasant about Hanukkah: the relatives arriving at the door with presents, a family sitting informally at the kitchen table enjoying homemade latkes (potato pancakes) with applesauce. Each spread is also unique in that it features a different family in a different home. The menorah (candleholder) for each family is different as well, from the traditional brass-colored one pictured on the first night to the whimsical cat-shaped one, belonging to a cat-loving family, on the fifth night. On the eighth -- and final -- night, all the families gather to celebrate the end of Hanukkah. The easy-to-read rhyming text, colorful illustrations, and hands-on interest provided by the lift-the-flap format combine to make Light the Candles: A Hanukkah Lift-the-Flap Book an enjoyable introduction to the observance of Hanukkah.




"Blue jeans from my mother,
Wool gloves from Uncle Brad,
A sweater from my sister,
A jacket from my dad.

"A brand-new winter wardrobe
To fold and put away.
I'm glad that Santa always brings me
Toys on Christmas Day."
     -- "Beneath the Tree"

Book Cover ImageChristmas Is Coming! (Talewinds), written by Charles Ghigna and Debra Ghigna and illustrated by Mary O'Keefe Young, is a collection of poems all about Christmas. From the anticipation of the holiday, the preparations, the decorations, and the note to Santa through the holiday itself, the entire Christmas experience is documented.

Written in the first person, each poem reflects the thoughts of one of three young unnamed children in an apparently close family. The image throughout is timeless; this family gives sleds and dollhouses rather than computers and video games. Although clues in the pictures imply the time is the present -- the girls wear pants, a boy hangs his mother's pantyhose as the ideal Christmas stockings, and the family members are clearly multiethnic as they gather around the dinner table -- Christmas Is Coming! seems to be something out of another century.

The verses are simple and follow very basic rhyming schemes, making them easy and fun for younger children to read aloud. The subject matter and the choice of words are very direct and typically very literal; however, a few poems do have an element of subtlety that may prove challenging for young students. For example, in the poem "Grandpa's Gift," the older daughter finds a small wrapped gift from her grandfather. She notes:


"I saw my grandma watching me.
She noticed my surprise.
She said, 'He wrapped it months ago,'
And then she wiped her eyes."

The implication of the poem is that the girl's grandfather is dead and that he had wrapped his silver pocket watch earlier, with a note saying "I'm giving you the time because/You made the time for me." The accompanying picture of the large, extended family gathered around the dining room table where the grandmother sits, alone, at the head of the table, reinforces the idea.

The poems, with Young's quaint, homey watercolor illustrations, can be useful as a starting point for classroom discussion, craft projects, or student compositions on a variety of subjects, ranging from the preparation for and celebration of Christmas to the ideas of family, generosity, and tradition. Children may wish to compare their own holiday experiences to the book's somewhat idealized version.

Although both Charles and Debra Ghigna have enjoyed publication of their poems individually, Christmas Is Coming! is their first published collaborative project.



Book Cover ImageChristmas Rhyme Time and Christmas Numbers (Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.), written and illustrated by Sonja Lamut, are two new learning books appropriate for preschoolers through kindergarten or first grade. Each page of these board books features two small cutouts through which readers will see images from a wheel imbedded inside the page. When readers turn the wheel, different images appear.

In Christmas Numbers, each page features a single word -- a number -- illustrated by a simple block-color picture of the correct number of Christmas or winter-theme items. Turning the wheel reveals, in succession, the numerals one through ten in one of the cutouts. When readers choose the correct numeral, a small image appears in the second cutout, completing the picture. For example, on the page featuring the word three, the illustration depicts three children caroling next to a tree. When the reader turns the wheel to the numeral 3, the image of three singing birds appears through a cutout on the tree branch.

Similarly, in Christmas Rhyme Time, each page features a four-line verse that is missing the final word. When the reader turns the wheel and chooses from several pictures, the missing word appears as well.

The interactive aspect of Christmas Rhyme Time and Christmas Numbers will help keep the interest of young readers and provide a fun, holiday-themed way to practice reading and counting skills.



Book Cover Image Most schoolchildren know all about such holidays as Halloween, Mother's Day, and Independence Day, but what do they know about the special days popular in other parts of the world, such Confucius's birthday (September 28) or the Chinese New Year (which falls sometime between January 20 and February 20)? World Holidays: A Watts Guide for Children (Franklin Watts), written by Heather Moehn, presents many facts that may not be well known about common U.S. holidays. For example, although Mother's Day was declared a national holiday in 1914, Father's Day did not acquire similar recognition until 1972.

World Holidays provides a wealth of information on dozens of holidays celebrated throughout the world. Each one of its more than 100 alphabetically arranged entries covers one major religious, cultural, social, and/or national holiday. Most of the entries take up a full page, although a few (Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, New Year's Day, and Passover) use all of a two-page spread. A simple narrative describes the holiday, providing its date, background, place of origin, and manner in which it is observed. Each entry also includes a captioned color photograph depicting the celebration, history, or some other aspect of the special occasion

Moehn maintains an even-handed, multicultural approach. Particularly in the case where a day has religious significance, she is careful to neither downplay its spiritual importance nor advocate its observance. In addition to commonly observed Jewish and Christian holidays, she includes major holidays of the Islamic and Hindu faiths, among others.

Many of the holidays contain cross-references that help youngsters appreciate the similarities between various cultural observances. With an appended section on different calendars used throughout the world and a five-year holiday calendar, World Holidays: A Watts Guide for Children would be a useful reference for any classroom.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores and at Amazon.com. If you are unable to locate the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly: