Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book review written for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now moving in a different direction, though the columns that I write are still book-centric. Instead of writing reviews, I'm offering you columns on topics that have been inspired by wonderful books that I have read. I tell you about the books in question, and describe how they have have impacted me. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but the books that I tend to choose are ones that resonate with me on some level. Therefore, when I read the last page and close the covers, I am not quite the same person that I was when first I started reading the book. The shift in my perspective might be miniscule, but it is still there. The books I am looking are both about adult and children's titles. Some of the children's titles will appeal to adults, while others will not. Some of the adult titles will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are eager to expand their horizons.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Solstice Books

In just a few days it will be the winter solstice, the longest day of the night. This year I reviewed two delightful books about this special time of year, The longest night and Snow Party. My reviews are below.

The longest night

Marion Bauer

Illustrator: Ted Lewin

Picture Book

For ages 4 to 8

Holiday House, 2009 ISBN: 082342054X

It is the longest night of the year. Snow lies thick on the ground and “the world is still” and cold. The mice and the bears sleep, but there are some animals that are still out and about, despite the “bitter wind.”

The crow, the moose, and the fox are all sure that one of them will be able to bring back the sun so that light and warmth will come to the land once more. The wind knows better though. The wind knows that someone else, someone small and unassuming, will be the one to call the sun back.

With a lyrical text and Ted Lewin’s beautiful paintings, this picture book about the longest night of the year is a joy to read.

Snow Party

Harriet Ziefert

Illustrator: Mark Jones

Picture Book

For ages 4 to 8

Blue Apple Books, 2008 ISBN: 1934706280

It snowed all night long, and in the morning, everything is covered with “beautiful snow.” Out of the snowy landscape come snow men, snow women, and snow children. Each one of them carries a bag or a box. Happily they set up tables, string lights, and prepare for a “special party.” The little snow children look at a large wrapped gift, wondering what might be inside the colorful wrapped package.

At long last all is ready. The tables are set, the food is ready, the musicians have arrived, and on this shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, the snow people begin their wonderful snow party.

In this special seasonal title, Harriet Ziefert’s simple text is beautifully complimented by Mark Jones’ lovely illustrations. After reading this book young readers will be keen to have a snow party of their own, complete with icy treats, glowing lamps, and festive cheer.

A few years ago I reviewed a nonfiction title about the winter solstice. Here it is:

The Winter Solstice

Ellen Jackson

Illustrated by Jan Dacey Ellis


Ages 7 to 9

Lerner, 1994, 0-7613-0297-2

Long ago people did not know what made some months colder than others. They did not know why the sun would hang so low in the sky in the winter and why the days grew so short. They would grow afraid that the sun would disappear all together and that they would all die of cold and starvation. And so, in an effort to protect themselves from the evil spirits that they were sure lurked in the darkness and to make sure that the sun would return, they held special ceremonies and rituals. In some cultures sacrifices would be made to appease the gods.

Over the centuries people have held all kinds of celebrations on or around the winter solstice. Gifts were exchanged, special foods were eaten, bonfires were lit, and unique ceremonies arose.

Today we know why winter is a colder season and are not frightened by it. We don’t usually have special ceremonies on the winter solstice any more but many of the traditions that used to be held on the solstice are now ones that we enjoy on Christmas or Hanukkah. Just like the Romans during their solstice celebrations we light candles, exchange gifts, and eat special foods. Like the people of Northern Europe we decorate our homes with evergreen and mistletoe.

As they read this book children will be interested to discover that so many of the traditions of their holiday season come from very ancient winter solstice traditions. The author looks at winter solstice ceremonies and rituals from around the world and she ends her narrative with a Cherokee solstice story.

Carefully researched and beautifully illustrated, this is a picture book which provides its readers with a wealth of information.

You can find more winter books on the Winter Days feature on the TTLG website. Happy winter solstice everyone!

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