Elem. – Feasts and Festivals Around the World: From Lunar New Year to Christmas

McGinty, Alice B. Feasts and Festivals Around the World: From Lunar New Year to Christmas. Illustrated by Tomoko Suzuki. Little Bee Books, 2022. 978-1-499-81217-6. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PK-3.

Feasts and Festivals Around the World takes readers on an exploration of thirteen celebrations in twelve countries around the world, touching every continent but Antarctica. Loosely arranged by season, the book covers holidays with fixed dates (St. Patrick’s Day, Songkran, Mid-Summer, Australian Christmas, Day of the Dead, Feast of the Seven Fishes, and Hogmanay) and those whose dates vary (Lunar New Year, Eid al Fitr, Eid ul Adha, New Yam Festival, Chuseok, and Thanksgiving). Each celebration is briefly introduced by 6-8 lines of rhyming text on the leading page of a double-page spread, then elaborated upon with one-two paragraphs of additional information on the trailing page. Tomiko Suzuki’s illustrations compliment the text on each spread with a collage of traditions and foods for each celebration.

THOUGHTS: Feasts and Festivals shares interesting information about each holiday, and its illustrations are a simple and engaging compliment to the text on each spread. While this book is unlikely to be a casual read for young learners, it provides a strong launch point for holiday and country research as well as a wonderful option for students interested in holidays and curious about other countries. By including a wide variety of celebrations, the book provides an expanded opportunity for our learners to see their traditions represented in the pages of a book as well as to expand their horizons. The only shortcoming is possibly the dominance of Christian celebrations to the absence of a profile of Jewish celebration. Other strengths, however, make this book a recommended read.

394.2 Customs–Special Occasions          Hannah J. Thomas, Central Bucks SD

MG/YA – Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition

Treuer, Anton. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition. Levine Querido. 2021. 978-1-646-14045-9. $18.99. 383 p. Grades: 7-up.

A Native Ojibwe professor of Ojibwe language and culture at the University of Bemidji in northern Minnesota, Anton Treuer has compiled a thorough exploration of Native American history, past and present. Formatted as questions and answers, Dr. Treuer separates the material in essays on the following topics: terminology; history; religion, culture, identity; powwow; tribal languages; politics; economics; education; social activism; perspectives. Among the subjects discussed are how to refer to Native Americans (which term to use), explanation of different customs and ceremonies, justification for reservations, criticism of imposed governmental removals and Indian schools, gender identity, women’s roles, and marriage in Native American community, identification of Native inventions and discoveries, and discussion of incidents connected to Native Americans. The information, albeit short, is noteworthy because of the wide variety covered. Students can use the detailed index to research Native American life; all ages can benefit from educating themselves on the Indigenous people whose home colonizers disrupted. Dr. Treuer writes in a relatable style, often posing his own carefully crafted opinions on some sensitive subjects and providing a personal touch to otherwise expository writing. This guidebook adapted for young readers is an essential purchase for school libraries. In addition to the index, the book includes photographs, recommended readings, and notes.

THOUGHTS: Each section of this book begins with quote(s), and I was surprised to see under the History heading one by Adolph Hitler. Rest assured, Treuer is reinforcing the devastation of Native American history, compared with Hitler’s annihilation of people. Treuer’s father, Robert Treuer, was an Austrian-Jew who escaped the Holocaust because of his mother’s efforts in securing transport to England and then, America. Dr. Treuer is steeped in his own mother’s Ojibwe heritage, and his non-Native father was also an advocate for Native American rights. Easy to use as a reference tool or for cover-to-cover reading, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, fulfills a need in everyone’s school collection and supports the continuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work.

970 History of North America          Bernadette Cooke   School District of Philadelphia
908.9 History of Ethnic and National Groups

YA – Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story)

Nayeri, Daniel. Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story). Levine Querido, 2020. 346 p. 978-1-646-14000-8. $17.99.  Grades 7-12.

When Khosrou’s (Daniel’s) physician mother converts to Christianity in the 1980’s, she endangers her life because of the Iranian government’s restrictions on religion. His father, a jovial, loquacious dentist covertly obtains the proper paperwork for escape, then drops off his eight-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter, Dina, at the airport as his wife starts a journey that will take the threesome to Dubai, Italy, and finally, Oklahoma. Daniel Nayeri’s Printz Award-winning book, Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story), telling how his family turned from comfortable, wealthy land owners to battered, poor refugees can be summed up in these few sentences; but the flow of the chapter-less pages weaves a tale likened to the much admired, Scheherazade of 1,001 Nights. The paragraphs describing memories of Daniel’s (no one in America can pronounce Khosrou!) grandparents’ home and his parents’ relationship spin into beloved Persian legends and myths and wind up next to pages relating the harsher daily existence he experiences in Oklahoma. Daniel is at the center of a maelstrom as the cover depicts, a twelve-year-old boy with different tastes in foods and specific hygienic customs, wanting to fit in yet also wanting to hold on to the Persian culture he cherishes. A son with vivid recollections who longs for the warmth of his biological father, but is resigned to live with his stern, abusive Farsi- speaking step-father whom his mother marries and keeps remarrying for companionship and convenience, despite the beatings she suffers. As Daniel narrates his life tale with casual familiarity, the reader learns of the ancient heritage of Iran and its reverence and love of story, his difficulties adjusting to each stage of the refugee journey, and his impressions of Americans and life here. Most of all, the story is a tribute to the perseverance and unconditional love of his mother, Sima. In the refugee hotel of Italy instead of lolling around all day waiting for the call to emigrate, she makes a connection with a Texan woman living in Rome who home schools her own children and arranges for Daniel and Dina to share in the lessons even though Sima has to spend hours erasing the answers from the host children’s cast-off notebooks so that Daniel and Dina can use them. Her determination and dignity to make life good for her son and daughter are evident in that scene. Told not as a memoir, but as a work of fiction—for as the narrator tells us, it is not so simple to sort out fact from fiction when dealing with one’s memories—Daniel delivers the truth of his life as he remembers it with humor and charm and not a bit of self-pity. Shifting from present to far past to recent past, he shares his varied observations, thus preserving his precious legacy of storytelling, made up or real, or a mixture of both.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

THOUGHTS: Like the coveted cream puffs described in one of Nayeri’s tales, this book is a treat for those who appreciate a different writing style and matchless imagery. There are bits of scatological references—the unhappy affect of a first-time encounter with Sloppy Joes and negotiating a toilet with a bidet—but the targeted audience may appreciate and even empathize with Daniel’s situations. Written with a truly inimitable voice, this work is unlike any book for middle grade or young adult this reader has encountered. Recommend to students who love words or like to write, to those new to a place, or those needing to understand another perspective.

The Library of Medieval Times


The Library of Medieval Times. San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2015. 80p. $193.00 series.  $38.60 individual title. Gr. 6-12.

Allman, Toney. Medieval Medicine and Disease. 978-1-60152-656-4.

Currie, Stephen. Medieval Punishment and Torture. 978-1-60152-658-8.

Kallen, Stuart A. Medieval Food and Customs. 978-1-60152-718-9.

Nardo, Don. Medieval Knights and Chivalry. 978-1-60152-636-6.

Nardo, Don. Medieval Warfare. 978-1-60152-682-3.

The Library of Medieval Times is a great addition to any nonfiction collection.  This 5-title series highlights various aspects of medieval history and living from torture to medicine to warfare and food, while providing various primary source documentation to support explanations and understanding of this period in history.  The focus of each text is of great interest to students, especially the title about punishment and torture, and provides information not only to increase understanding of the medieval ages but also for further research.  Each individual text includes a timeline, chapters to further focus on specific aspects of the main topic, “Source Notes”, and “For Further Research”, a section providing books and websites for students to explore.  This series is a great source for world history research or comparative research in world cultures classes.

Medieval History    Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

Each year our world cultures classes complete a required research paper.  One teacher requires a specific topic for research, while the other teacher tells students their paper has to deal with something pertaining to the world.  In other words…anything (as long as it didn’t happen in the United States).  This makes gathering sources for students, and collection development, much more challenging because topics change from class to class and year to year.  The Library of Medieval Times was a great addition to our collection for this year’s assignment.  Many students enjoy the idea of knights and medieval history, but we lacked appropriate sources.  This series breaks apart medieval times into easy, accessible topics which helps students better focus their research and writing.  This is a great series to add for world history research.  It is available both in print and eBook format.