Lomax (The Bess M. Gilbert Art Collection, 2012) presents a rhyming, intriguing look at Christmas traditions and legends from around the world in this first of a 12-book series.
Resplendent paintings with a vintage feel combine with poetry in this exploration of the December holiday. The singsong tone may inspire kids to request frequent rereads, despite the lack of a typical storyline. Homes covered in this edition are in Spain, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Poland, Ukraine and Slovenia. Some children who believe that “Santa” travels the world in one night may be confused by the fact that he visits others before Christmas Eve. The series, however, treats St. Nicholas and Santa as separate Christmas characters (Santa will be covered in volume 2). There’s also a discrepancy about who leaves gifts on Christmas Eve. For example, in Ukraine, angels leave them, not St. Nick (he visits earlier in the month). The book revives some of the cultural history of the season, while broadening children’s understanding of Christmas and the concept that not everyone does things the way they do—and everyone’s traditions are equally special. Parents or children who are especially interested in one or more of the traditions can investigate the extensive resource list at the end, which includes StNicholasCenter.org and WhyChristmas.com. Various “Did You Know?” sections offer more in-depth information, including other names for St. Nick. While interesting for adults and of value in teaching more about what St. Nick means to people living in other countries, these interruptions detract from the rhythm and tone of the text when read aloud. The book lacks perfect cohesiveness, as it rapidly jumps from country to country, but it introduces readers to new cultures in a way that shows that even though we’re not all the same, we’re not that different, either.
An occasionally confusing, yet enlightening, read for kids of all ages and from all cultures.