Deborah Heiligman has embarked on an ambitious "Holidays Around the World Series" with National Geographic
Aimed at 6-9 year old children the series is rich in photographs from around the world and lower on textual explanations, letting the pictures speak for themselves.
Celebrate Ramadan & Eid Al-Fitr with Praying, Fasting and Charity and Celebrate Diwali with Sweets, Lights, and Fireworks are the first 2 titles in the series.
Deborah has collaborated with a Consultant for each book who personally celebrates the festival being discussed.
I'm not sure what the scope of these consultants was though, because I spied a couple of technical errors in the book on Diwali. For example the Taj Mahal is called a mosque, Lord Ganesh is said to symbolise prosperity, the meanings of deepa and vali have been interchanged. The Consultants could have been limited to just writing the afterword instead of proofing the text of the whole book.
I'm not too sure about the exact technicalities in the book on Ramadan because whatever I have viewed has been as an outsider looking in. Although, I have been able to observe it in greater detail here in Cairo, where the sahour's and iftars are celebrated even in 5 star hotels. The entire city fasts, the timings turn topsy turvy. Offices close earlier. Unlike India where most praying and fasting happens inside closed doors of houses and mosques, in Cairo the sheer numbers forces them onto the street even during the regular Friday noon prayers.
The pictures are amazing and well laid out. For someone who celebrates either of these festivals, the pictures will seem incomplete because Diwali there are so many more aspects than can be represented in a 32 page book. But for someone who has no idea about Diwali, Ramadan, Islam and Hinduism, this is a very good introduction. I would have loved to compare these 2 books with the books on Hannukah or the Passover which I do not know about as well as these 2.
I especially loved the satellite pictures of India on Diwali and 6 days later showing the difference in intensity of light between these days. The pictures in both books represent an excellent geographic spread.
There is a recipe in each book that a 6-9 year old can easily help an adult assemble. Children who see these books will be instantly attracted and it could be a great way to initiate dialogues into cultural differences.
The books are an excellent buy for someone who is trying to introduce children to an alternative culture and festival. Priced at $15.95 per hard cover version, the entire series will be a wonderful addition to any Children's or School Library.
Also Published on Desicritics.org