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



From the Orca Origins series

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 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Superficial but kind of fun.


Take a magic-carpet ride to far-flung and seldom-seen locations.

Readers can follow a young, pale-skinned, khaki-clad adventurer as they set out on their magic carpet to explore unusual, unexpected, and sometimes dangerous spots around the world. Locations visited include the exclusive interior of Air Force One, the remote depths of the Mariana Trench, and the (potentially) fatal shores of Brazil’s Snake Island, among others. Each adventure follows a uniform template, whereby the location is introduced in a sweeping double-page painting with an introductory paragraph followed by another spread of images and facts. The illustrations are attractive, a bit reminiscent of work done by the Dillons in the 1970s and ’80s. Alas, while the text correctly states that the Upper Paleolithic art in France’s Lascaux cave features only one depiction of a human, the introductory illustration interpolates without explanation a probably Neolithic hunting scene with several humans from a Spanish site—which is both confusing and wrong. Trivia fans will enjoy the mixture of fact and speculation about the various locations; a small further-reading section in the back points to more information. While the potentially off-putting choice of magic carpet as conveyance is never explained, there is a disclaimer warning readers that the book’s creators will not take responsibility if they suffer calamity trying to actually visit any of these places. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Superficial but kind of fun. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5159-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Magic Cat

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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