We All Celebrate

We All Celebrate
Chitra Soundar and Jenny Bloomfield
Tiny Owl

Probably somewhere in the world, no matter the month or the date, there will be people celebrating something or somebody, a birthday perhaps. This insightful book acknowledges that and introduces young readers to some of the less often mentioned festivals and celebrations from around the world, as well as presenting some that are well known such as Deepavali and Christmas.

Chitra Soundar uses both a global and a seasonal approach that starts with people wishing one another ‘Happy New Year’. and perhaps if they’re living in parts of Canada, jumping into the chilly sea doing the ‘Polar Bear Plunge’. However not all calendars begin on January 1st. Nowruz – the Persian New Year – celebrated in many countries including Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan is in March.

I think we all welcome the arrival of spring when we can begin to cast off our heavy winter clothes and blossoms start to burst forth. Blossoms – in particular those of the cherry trees or sakura – are a cause for celebration in Japan where people gather together for Hanami under the trees all pink with delicate sakura.

In contrast in India, the spring festival of Holi is anything but a quiet occasion to appreciate nature; it’s a time to join the throngs in the streets throwing coloured powder and water, and dancing to loud music. When in India at Holi, I hide away as I break out in a rash if I get the powder on my skin.

Summer, especially midsummer is another cause for celebration; I learned from this book that in Sweden families get together in the countryside and parks where they make garlands of flowers, adorn a maypole and dance around it, as well as feasting.
Sometimes the first day when Muslims celebrate the breaking of their Ramadan fast, Eid-al-Fitr, falls in the summer: Chitra devotes a double spread to fasting. giving brief details of some other fast days for other religious traditions.

No matter the time of year, food, music and dancing often play a big part in celebrations. It’s certainly true for carnivals and for some Pacific Ocean island festivals.

Autumn seems to be a time for honouring dead ancestors; people do so in South East Asia and in Mexico.

Strangely for UK readers, people in Peru celebrate the winter solstice (Inti Raymi) in mid June. Much more associated with winter is the Jewish festival of Chanukah celebrated over eight days and nights.

It’s important to remember, as Chitra reminds readers on the final spread, that like humans, celebrations change and evolve over time, but despite our differences, everybody celebrates.

Debuting as a picture book illustrator, Jenny Bloomfield’s vibrant, detailed spreads really do evoke the spirit of the celebrations.

Definitely a book for school collections and topic boxes.

The Birthday Invitation / Wishker

The Birthday Invitation
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
That the author of this book is a speech therapist is evident in the abundance of verbs in her enormously engaging story.
We meet Ellen on the eve of her birthday excitedly writing and posting off invitations to her party. On her way though, she drops one: it’s picked up by a wizard while out collecting herbs, and into a bottle he pops it.

Some while later though, it finds its way into the hands of a pirate captain out at sea where it is then seized by his parrot which flies off and drops it into the hands of a princess and thereafter, it passes to several other unsuspecting characters before ending up in the pocket of its originator.
The day of the party dawns and there’s considerable hustle and bustle as Emma makes the final preparations for her birthday party and then comes a loud knock on her door …
Has there been a mistake or could it be that the wizard had worked some rather extraordinary magic? Certainly not the former, and maybe a sprinkling of sorcery went into the making of that wonderful celebratory cake …

There certainly is a kind of magic fizzle to Laura Hughes’ captivating illustrations: every scene sparkles with vivacity and her attention to detail further adds to the enjoyment of her spreads.
Just right for pre-birthday sharing with those around the age of the birthday girl herein, or for a foundation stage story session at any time.

Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings
Maverick Arts Publishing
Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Heather Pindar’s deliciously crazy cautionary tale.
Meet Mirabel who it seems never gets what she asks for be it a sleepover with her friends or a pet monkey; “It’s not fair! Everyone always says NO” she complains as she sits outside in her garden. Her comments are heard by a cat that introduces itself as Wishker, claims to posses magical powers and offers her three wishing whiskers.
Mirabel uses her first wish on ice-cream for every meal and her second for having her friends to stay – forever. The third wish involves a phone call to the circus and results in the arrival of clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats and a whole host of animals. The result? Total pandemonium in one small house: things are well nigh impossible.

Another wish is uttered and ‘Whoosh’. Normality reigns once more. But that’s not quite the end of the tale – or the whiskery wishing: Mirabel has a brother and there just happens to be a whisker going begging …
Sarah Jennings bright, action-packed scenes are full of amusing details and endearing characters human and animal.

I’ve signed the charter  

Mabrook! A World of Muslim Weddings

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Mabrook! A World of Muslim Weddings
Na’ima B Robert and Shirin Adi
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Mahbrook, the title of this fascinating book means ‘congratulations’ (or I think, ‘you are blessed’) in Arabic, certainly a sentiment one would want to pass on to a couple who have just got married: ‘Muslims from around the world share the same religious rites, but they celebrate in different ways in the four corners of the world.’ We then visit various countries to get a glimpse of the particular celebration that might take place when Muslims living there get married.
First stop is Pakistan where there’s a pre wedding henna party in full swing:

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the bride’s hands and feet are being adorned with beautiful, intricate henna designs while family and friends enjoy some dancing. The following day, the groom rides in on a white horse, the bride, bedecked with gold, hides beneath her silks awaiting her husband to be. There’s a huge feast awaiting everyone once the baraat arrives and other formalities have taken place.
Morocco is the next wedding venue. There, weddings are community affairs when all the neighbours spend days cooking delicious food: couscous, roast lamb with olives and pickled lemons sufficient to feed the huge number of guests expected. The bride changes her dress seven times at the waleemah (feast for the community) into which she is carried by the crowds. There is much joy as the bride dances in a circle of song.

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Traditional Somali dance to drums music and song is part and parcel of a wedding in Somalia …

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In Britain the bride might wear a white hijab and have guests from many different faiths and backgrounds. Here’s one happy celebration:

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Those are just some of the ways Muslim weddings are celebrated but in addition to having the same rites there are formalities that will be common no matter where the celebration takes place: important family meetings and discussions, a marriage contract, conditions that must be respected, guidance is sought for a blessed union and the groom pledges the mahr be it gold, a home, a ring or whatever she wishes – a dowry for his bride to be, the ceremony, in front of witnesses, is performed by the imam.

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A new journey awaits the happy couple …
With its beautiful mendhi designs adorning the inside covers, glowing illustrations on every spread, and fascinating facts about aspects of wedding celebrations, this is a book to inform, to delight, to draw on for RE discussions and most of all, to further the celebration not only of the particular topic herein, but of the rich cultural diversity that is part of what makes our world such an exciting place.

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