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From the Orca Origins series

An adequate survey of the holiday in a pretty package, made a bit more special with its personal touches.

Readers so inclined can celebrate Christmas anytime with this overview of the holiday’s traditions from past to present.

This exploration of Christmas traditions is separated into three chapters, with accounts from the mother-daughter authorial duo’s personal celebrations interspersed throughout. The first chapter follows Christmas’ origins as a non-Christian early midwinter celebration. Readers learn about ancient Rome’s Saturnalia and ancient Greece’s celebration of Dionysus’ birth. Further travels in the Northern Hemisphere introduce readers to Jesus’ birth and the spread of Christianity throughout Europe and beyond. Despite the Puritans’ attempts to cancel Christmas, it “bounces back.” The book’s second chapter then goes on to chronicle the evolution of modern-day Christmas. The third chapter looks at festivities around the world in a smattering of countries in Asia, South America, Central America, Africa, and Oceania. The large, glossy photos (some from the authors’ lives) show a welcome range of racial representation. Sidebars provide some helpful context and interesting asides, including a handful of recipes. The conversational tone is as delightful and jovial as Santa Claus himself. Unfortunately, that results in a rose-colored view of the spread of Christianity, noting that it simply “traveled along with” colonists.

An adequate survey of the holiday in a pretty package, made a bit more special with its personal touches. (glossary, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1355-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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After surveying “competing claims” for the first Thanksgiving from 1541 on, in Texas, Florida, Maine, Virginia and Massachusetts, Colman decides in favor of the 1621 event with the English colonists and Wampanoag as the first “because the 1621 event was more like the Thanksgiving that we celebrate today.” She demonstrates, however, that the “Pilgrim and Indian” story is really not the antecedent of Thanksgiving as we celebrate it today. Rather, two very old traditions—harvest festivals and days of thanksgiving for special events—were the origin, and this interesting volume traces how the custom of proclaiming a general day of thanksgiving took hold. Yet, since many Thanksgiving celebrations in towns and schools are still rooted in the “Pilgrim and Indian” story, which the author calls “true and important,” but which many Native Americans find objectionable, a more in-depth discussion of it is warranted here. The solid bibliography does include some fine resources, such as 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (2001) by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. (author’s note, chronology, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8229-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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How and when the Western Hemisphere, particularly North and South America, came to be populated continues to be both mysterious and controversial for scientists. Archaeologists plug away with the tools at their disposal but have “more questions than answers.” Harrison does a good job setting the issue in context. He describes the earliest efforts to identify the original inhabitants of the continents, exploring the Clovis culture, believed by many to be the first humans to reach North America. After clearly explaining how scholars decided that they were first, he then lists the arguments against this hypothesis. In the course of looking at both sides, he introduces young readers to “the strict rules of archaeology.” The author demonstrates the precise work of those attempting to understand the hidden aspects of human history and how many of these old questions are seen in the light of new technologies and discoveries. The narrative is aided by both photographs and original illustrations that imagine scenes from both the distant past and the field experiences. (glossary, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59078-561-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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