With 24 poems—by Neruda, Longfellow, Emerson and Issa, as well as many contemporary children’s poets from Britain and the United States—this collection focuses on holidays celebrated in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Arranged month by month, it includes many cultural groups that now live in these places. Because it was published in the United Kingdom, there are some omissions that U.S. audiences will notice. While La Tomatima, a Spanish tomato-throwing festival, is included (with a Neruda poem that mentions Chile), there are no Latin American festivals represented. Native Americans are left out too, although there are a few children wearing feathers in the Thanksgiving picture, an illustration that does feature a multiracial celebration. Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews are all represented. The busily populated collage, watercolor and colored-pencil pictures are joyful and often humorous, but the snowman in the Hanukkah illustration that wears payes (side curls worn by Hasidic men) and a fedora may strike some as strange, and the Caribbean Carnival dancers may seem scantily clad (although realistic). The descriptions of the holidays are informative, although some additional information about the various calendars and a bibliography would be helpful.
Although the poems vary in quality, and few really stand out, this collection will enliven holiday units and programs in schools, libraries and religious institutions. (Poetry. 6-12)