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LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrations & Festivals series

A comprehensive and accessible introduction to an important Chinese holiday.

A Chinese family celebrates Lunar New Year.

As the family prepares for the holiday, a child named Ling clearly elucidates the significance of the traditions they follow, from cleaning the house (“We sweep away bad luck and evil spirits”) to applying honey to the lips of the Kitchen God statue (“We want him to only say sweet things”). Then there’s shopping to do as well as cooking for the big New Year’s Eve family reunion dinner. Each page is full of details describing both what the family does and what each action or item represents, and Ling is on hand to explain it all. Yim recounts the famous legend of the New Year beast and offers descriptions of the New Year’s parade, kite flying, and the Lantern Festival at the end of the celebrations. Wang’s illustrations are cheerful and colorful, a flat graphic style with stylized, round-headed figures (while some have black circle eyes, most have slanted lines for eyes). The body of the book feels robust enough, with plenty of solid narrated information, but readers will find even more information in the lengthy backmatter: the history of the holiday, information on the Chinese zodiac, New Year greetings in Mandarin and Cantonese, riddles, a recipe for dumplings, a craft, examples of how Lunar New Year is observed in other cultures, and a quiz.

A comprehensive and accessible introduction to an important Chinese holiday. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780711287136

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Words & Pictures

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

From the Celebrate the World series

Pass.

The traditions and history of one of Mexico’s most important holidays are introduced in this latest of Eliot’s Celebrate the World series.

From setting up the flower-festooned altars to decorating the calaveras, the preparations depicted involve entire communities over several weeks. Characters in cowboy hats, sombreros, and baseball caps place the final touches on skeletons in full lucha libre regalia or spangled mariachi outfits. However, instead of accurately using Mexico’s name for the holiday, Día de Muertos, Eliot uses the English back-translation, “Día de los Muertos,” as is common in the U.S. even though the story evidently takes place in Mexico. Also, aside from stating that the celebration “is an ancient tradition,” there is no mention of its Indigenous, pre-European/Christian roots nor does the book actively distinguish between Día de Muertos and Halloween. The first-person narration vacillates between child and adult perspectives. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” Gutierrez’s mixed-media illustrations are convulsive, crowded panes of frenetic activity. Exaggerated facial features border on stereotypical caricatures—snouts and bug eyes abound. Contributing to the crowded page design is the unfortunate choice of board rather than picture-book format. Consequently, the initial perception is that this series is geared toward toddlers, when it is the school-age child who would most benefit from the information in this book.

Pass. (Board book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1515-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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CELEBRATE KWANZAA

WITH CANDLES, COMMUNITY, AND THE FRUITS OF THE HARVEST

From the Holidays Around the World series

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for.

An overview of the modern African-American holiday.

This book arrives at a time when black people in the United States have had intraracial—some serious, some snarky—conversations about Kwanzaa’s relevance nowadays, from its patchwork inspiration that flattens the cultural diversity of the African continent to a single festive story to, relatedly, the earnest blacker-than-thou pretentiousness surrounding it. Both the author and consultant Keith A. Mayes take great pains—and in painfully simplistic language—to provide a context that attempts to refute the internal arguments as much as it informs its intended audience. In fact, Mayes says in the endnotes that young people are Kwanzaa’s “largest audience and most important constituents” and further extends an invitation to all races and ages to join the winter celebration. However, his “young people represent the future” counterpoint—and the book itself—really responds to an echo of an argument, as black communities have moved the conversation out to listen to African communities who critique the holiday’s loose “African-ness” and deep American-ness and moved on to commemorate holidays that have a more historical base in black people’s experiences in the United States, such as Juneteenth. In this context, the explications of Kwanzaa’s principles and symbols and the smattering of accompanying activities feel out of touch.

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for. (resources, bibliography, glossary, afterword) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2849-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2017

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