There are many new holiday picture books, including these of ethnic traditions.
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s childhood was spent on a reservation, where her father was an Episcopal priest. One Christmas when her tattered coat was to be replaced by a donated gift, she was reminded that “others need it more.” Ellen Beier has captured the heartfelt emotions of a child’s sadness and the resolution that leaves a true giving spirit.
A boy who assists the family with collecting sap from trees in the Arabian desert doesn’t realize its value when it is sold to three wanderers who, with the bundle of frankincense and gold, deliver it as a gift to a newborn baby. Bagram Ibatoulline’s iridescent paintings add beauty to a tender story. Newbery-medalist Linda Sue Park’s notes provide information on myrrh and her inspiration for this story.
Tomie De Paola’s ideas of Italian holiday foods and traditional practices make a fun balance to what is celebrated in other places of the world. In Calabria, Strega Nona and the villagers are busy preparing for the major events: Feast of St. Nicolas (Dec. 6), Il Capodanno (Jan. 1) and Epiphany (Jan. 5) when animals receive special treats. Magic happens as always in Strega Nona’s world.
Two mothers care for their children: a spider and her wee ones in an evergreen tree and a peasant woman sewing to make a life for her children. When the woman moves the tree inside as a Christmas surprise, the spider mother — happy to be in from the freezing weather — spins lacy decorations in the tree. This sweet Ukrainian tale is expanded by the cold blue tones of the winter scenes contrasting with the warmth of a cabin’s fire. This is a story for year-round sharing.