'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: Here is the World

Diversity in children’s books has been a hot topic of late, and we recently enjoyed a guest post from author Wai Chim on this very topic. For me, diversity has always been a personal love—diversity in subject matter, perspective and of course—culture.

I’ve always said travel is a phenomenal way to both educate and expand the mind of children, so paying witness to the other ways of the world via books is certainly a fantastic way to armchair travel. I particularly love the traditions and holidays of other places, and in this truly gorgeous book—Here is the World—we are treated to an entire year of Jewish celebrations that will both charm and enlighten.

Told in narrative rhyming text, we follow a Jewish family as they—just like so many other families—experience a major life event—the birth of a baby sister. The family celebrate with a Naming Ceremony.

Next we learn about a weekly event—Shabbat—or the seventh day of rest. Every Friday night, a few minutes before sunset, the family light candles and recite blessings over challah, a braided bread.

When the family go to the synagogue the next day, they wear a yarmulke (or kippah), a little round cap worn on the crown of the head and shawl. During Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), they eat apples and honey (for a sweet new year) to the sound of the shofar—a long, undulating horn. For Yom Kippur, everyone wears white for this holiest of holy days, and enjoy a hearty breakfast after fasting.

The ‘stories’ contained in this book, about the Jewish people and the traditions they celebrate year round, completely fascinated me. Rich, evocative illustrations of a happy, loving family bring a sense of cultural pride that is palpable and truly heart-warming. I love the way author Newman has placed as much importance in the ‘everyday’—the change of the seasons, the weekly Shabbat—as enormously reverent celebrations such as Passover and Shavout. This is what life is, after all, about—sharing the everyday moments along with the deeply embedded traditions of our forebears.

Explanatory text at the back of the book delves more deeply into each celebration, and a series of holidays crafts and recipes are a wonderful way for kids to get involved in this entrancing world of Jewish tradition.

Title: Here is the World
Author: Leslea Newman
Illustrator: Susan Gal
Publisher: Abrams, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 July 2014
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781419711855
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book

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