Monday, November 30, 2009

Celebrating holidays - with family and neighbors (ages 5 - 10)

Winter holidays are soon here, and this season I would like to share with you several holiday stories that stand out above the rest, stories that are worth searching for at bookstores or the library.  Two of my favorites to share with children in grades 2 through 5 are The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco, and One Candle, by Eve Bunting.  Both are warm, loving stories that celebrate family and community, while sharing some of the deeper moments of holidays.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
by Patricia Polacco
NY : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ©1996
ages 5 - 9
When young Tricia's neighbors come down with Scarlet Fever, her family is worried. It's the middle of winter, and Tricia's family celebrates Hanukkah, following her Russian grandparents' traditions. It's an exciting time, as her grandmother hand dips candles for Hanukkah, and her grandfather carves little wooden animals as a present for the children. But when they realize that their neighbors won't be able to celebrate Christmas properly because they are so sick, Tricia's family reaches out to help.  They bring their neighbors meals, Christmas trees, and even decorations. It's a lovely tale of friendship, sharing and community, based on Patricia Polacco's own childhood memories.
One Candle
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by K. Wendy Popp
NY: Joanna Cotler Books, 2002.
ages 8 - 10

One Candle, by Eve Bunting, is a soft, powerful tale that is very evocative for me.  A family gathers together to celebrate Hanukkah, and Grandma brings a potato as she does every year.  When she was younger, the narrator thought this potato was to make latkes.  But now she realizes that it's so that Grandma and Great-Aunt Rose can tell the story of surviving the Holocaust. In a concentration camp, they stole a potato at tremendous risk, and lit the Hanukkah candle using a bit of margerine and a thread.  As the young girl today wrestles with hearing this story, she thinks, "But I think it has to do with being strong in the bad time and remembering it in the good time." While it discusses the Holocaust, it's a good introductory book, never naming the concentration camps as such, but talking about it as a bad time.

I look forward to sharing more holiday books in the coming weeks.  Do you have any favorites you love to share with your children?  Please let me know!

Both review copies came from my public library.  Search for them at your public library using WorldCat: Trees of the Dancing Goat and One Candle.  If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

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