Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures
By Jan Reynolds
Lee and Low Books, $16.95
32 pp.; ISBN: 1584302534
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
That time of year is here -- you know, the part where we're on the verge of a cornucopia of religious and cultural holidays. It's easy to distinguish the differences between them, and sometimes a bit more of a challenge to see the similarities. But they're there, as are similarities with the celebrations of other people in other cultures around the world, and Jan Reynolds' Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures is a great example of that for young readers.
Jan Reynolds' field work with indigenous peoples around the world has yielded a treasure of information and photographs in Celebrate!. The book is sectioned into thematically related text and photos that highlight the similar ways in which people around the world celebrate: gathering together, food and drink, costumes and self-adornment, music, dancing, and using fire.
Reynolds' book follows eight cultures and the common elements that unite them. The cultures represent all corners of the world -- the Tibetans and Sherpas of the Himalayas, the Tuareg of the Sahara Desert in Africa, the Aborigines of Australia, the Sami of extreme Northern Europe, the Yanomani of the South American Amazon basin, the Inuit of extreme North America, the Balinese in Indonesia, as well as Americans in the U.S.
Opening the book with a brief guide to pronunciation to some of the non-English names and words used in the book will ease the reader's comfort with these unfamiliar terms. The book's full-color illustrations were shot by the author on location. Reynolds' first person experiences and accompanying pictures add credibility to her work. Her open and nonjudgmental approach sets a positive and warm tone for kids who may have a natural hesitation about things that are unfamiliar to them.
Readers, living vicariously through the author, attend weddings, spring celebrations, ceremonies that honor loved ones and ancestors, and occasions of thanksgiving, learning in detail how the Inuit fish, how the women of the Yanomani tribe make the paint that decorates their faces, the significance of wedding cakes in Bali, and much more.
Reynolds, whose work has been published by National Geographic, The New York Times, and Outside Magazine, has also had her photo-essay series, Vanishing Cultures, named Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People by National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children's Book Council.
Jan Reynolds' breakdown of the book into the selected subject headings organizes Celebrate! into nice-sized chunks of information for kids. Her mix of photos of various sizes enhances the visual appeal of her book, and the text that's paired with each photo is informative yet simple to understand. She does a great job of explaining not just what other cultures do but why they do it (i.e., the American celebration of Halloween has its roots in a Celtic festival). A color world map at the end of the book pinpoints the location of each observed society.
In Celebrate!, Jan Reynolds offers young readers a wealth of information that's presented in a clear and engaging way that encourages kids to look for the similarities between cultures instead of focusing on the differences, an especially appropriate book given all the celebrations that come in the fall and winter months.
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