Tag Archives: Holidays

My Name was Hussein

Title: My Name Was Hussein

Author: Hristo Kyuchukov
Illustrator: Allan Eitzen

Publisher/ Year: Boyds Mills Press, Inc. 2004

Number of Pages: 26

Tags/Themes: Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Family, Non-Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, K-5, 6-8, Rebecca Cauthorn

Genre: Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This is a true story about the author, who grew up in Bulgaria. There is an author’s note at the end of the book which provides further details on the historic events which occurred when the Soviet Union took over Bulgaria. He explains in this author’s note that this story is based on real events which occurred in his childhood. The first half of the book is more upbeat, describing the holiday of Ramadan and the traditions his family carry out. The second half of the book is when he describes what happened when the soldiers came and made them all change their names and stop celebrating their religion. Before reading this book, students would need to know that there have been recurring events of governments taking over countries and forcing the people to change their religions and culture.

Classroom Application: Having this book in the classroom would be a good asset because it would allow students to see that different religions are okay and forcing people to change their religion can be extremely harmful. It is also beneficial because it portrays people of different ethnicity (rather than just Caucasian people), and it would appeal to Social and Emotional Learning Standards by creating a feeling of empathy and understanding for minorities. This book could be used as a supplement to a social science lesson looking at religions or even various instances of violence as a result of religious control (such as the Haulocaust). This book could be beneficial to such a lesson because it would demonstrate that these incidents are not isolated, and have been repeated far too many times throughout history. Most of all, this book should prompt an understanding in students that acceptance of all religions is important and that you shouldn’t judge anyone for their name, ancestry, or religion.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents the Muslim religion and can be used to generate discussion about religion and religious inequities. Because the author is writing about his own life, I think this book is very honest and does a good job demonstrating first the beauty of his religion, followed by the harm which can come from people trying to change other’s religions. This would also be a good time to allow students to share their own religious beliefs, and confirm that it is okay to believe in whatever you believe in. I would introduce this book to the students by first asking if anyone wanted to share what religion they practice, and then allowing students to discuss their different religions. I would be very careful facilitating this discussion to make sure that people who practice “minority” religions did not feel overlooked or pushed aside—because the whole point is to embrace them! The author has a nice tone shift halfway through the piece when talking about the main holiday, Ramadan. At the beginning he says, “The last day of Ramadan is the best. My father goes to the mosque. When he comes back, he gives us candies. My little brother and I kiss our parents’ hands to say thank you”. Later, he says, “It was Ramadan. I wanted to visit my grandparents. I wanted to taste my grandmother’s puddings. My mother would not let me go. She was afraid of the soldiers.” This tone shift is important to show the effect that the Soviet Union’s Invasion had.


The Hanukkah Trike

Title: The Hanukkah Trike

Author(s): Michelle Edwards

Illustrator/Photographer: Kathryn Mitter

Publisher and Year: Albert Whitman & Company; 2010

Number of Pages: 21

Tags: Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, K-1, 2-3, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

The Hanukkah Trike is a story about a young girl and her family as they celebrate Hanukkah. They light the menorah, make traditional Hanukkah food, and retell the story of the Maccabees. Gabi, the daughter, receives a tricycle that she names Hanukkah, and she takes it out the next day to ride it. When she falls off, her father reminds her of the story of the Maccabees and how brave they were, and eventually Gabi learns how to ride her trike. This story doesn’t require much prior knowledge, since the story of the Maccabees and the origination of Hanukkah is explained in the story, although some familiarity with Jewish culture would be helpful.

Classroom Application:

This text could be used to reinforce lessons on Hanukkah, as part of a holiday unit and teaching about other cultures. This story also addresses the idea of being brave, which is something that classes could talk about as an SELS. This story could be used to introduce students to trying again after failing or picking yourself back up after something goes wrong.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

The Hanukkah Trike is all about Jewish culture and their holiday, Hanukkah. In areas where there is not a huge Jewish population, many students may not know about Hanukkah or how it is celebrated. This story addresses common traditions, like making latkes. The text shares how “Gabi helped Daddy grate the potatoes. Mama made the batter and fried the latkes golden and crisp” (page 5). The book also shares the story of the Maccabees, their victory, and “the miracle of the light that burned for eight nights” (page 9).


St. Patrick’s Day

Title: St. Patrick’s Day

Author(s): Anne Rockwell

Illustrator/Photographer: Lizzy Rockwell

Publisher and Year: Harper; 2010

Number of Pages: 32

Tags: Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Friendship, Holidays, Picture Book, K-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

St. Patrick’s Day is about a boy who goes to school on St. Patrick’s Day and his class does all different projects about the holiday and where it originated. Some students write a book, while others make a play or perform a song and dance. When the boy goes home, he celebrates the holiday with his family, who is Irish, and his friends, whom he teaches about the holiday and the culture. There is not much prior knowledge that students must know to understand the book; most of the story is information about St. Patrick’s Day and its origins.

Classroom Application:

This text can be used to reinforce lessons about Ireland and its culture, as it gives a lot of information, like how the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It can also be used to help teach about holidays, or St. Patrick’s Day in particular. The information in the book is simple so young students can understand, but it is still valuable to teaching students things they may not already know.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This book easily represents Irish culture, which is a culture that is less commonly talked about. The young boy in the story tells all about his relation to the culture, saying, “I’m all Irish! My mom and dad were born in Ireland” (page 23). Because Irish culture is not commonly taught, this story would be a simple way to introduce a little bit of it into the classroom. Even something as simple as mentioning the mother “baking soda bread because that’s what her mother always did on St. Patrick’s Day” (page 26) gives students an idea of an authentic Irish tradition.


Ruby’s Chinese New Year

Title: Ruby’s Chinese New Year

Author(s): Vickie Lee

Illustrator/Photographer: Joey Chou

Publisher and Year: Henry Holt and Company; 2018

Number of Pages: 35

Tags: Animals, Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, K-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

Ruby’s Chinese New Year tells the story of a girl who makes her way to her grandmother’s house to spend the Chinese New Year with her. Along the way, the young girl, Ruby, meets all the different animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Each animal that Ruby encounters has something that they bring to help celebrate, like lanterns and rice cakes. Before Ruby gets to Grandmother’s house, her gift for Grandmother gets ruined, but the animals comfort her and remind her that they have plenty of other ways to celebrate. Prior knowledge of the Chinese New Year is helpful but not required for this book, and the last few pages have information about the holiday, as well as instructions for how to make a paper lantern.

Classroom Application:

This text could be used to introduce students to the Chinese culture and to teach them about the Chinese New Year.  Other than the last page, there is not a lot of information about the holiday itself, but the book introduces the Chinese Zodiac as characters that Ruby meets on her adventure. It also shows different things that are used to celebrate the holiday, like flowers, foods, and candles.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

Ruby’s Chinese New Year represents Chinese culture and their traditions regarding the Chinese New Year. Because it doesn’t contain a lot of straightforward information, it would be best used as an introductory piece, but it could be used to teach or review the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. By page 24, all of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac (and cat), are listed in one place, “Monkey and Rooster, Horse and Goat, Dragon and Snake, Tiger and Rabbit, Ox, Cat and Rat, and…Dog and Pig.” It also highlights that a big part of the holiday celebration is being with family, as when Grandmother says, “seeing you and your friends today is the best gift of all” (page 28). I would introduce this to my students asking if they or anyone they know celebrates the Chinese New Year.


My Chinatown: One Year in Poems

Title: My Chinatown: One Year in Poems

Author(s): Kam Mak

Illustrator/Photographer: Kam Mak

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins Publishers 2002

Number of pages: 30

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Friendship, Holidays, Picture Book, Poetry, K-1, 2-3

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: My Chinatown is a book of poems that follows a boy through a year in a Chinatown in America. He laments about the differences between his new home and his old home in China. He talks about many different aspects of Chinese culture, and the differences and similarities between the versions in America and the versions in China. At the beginning, he is resentful of America, but begins to enjoy it as the book progresses. It is written in free verse style poetry and the illustrations appear to be done in acrylics. There are no special features and students should have a good grasp on figurative language before they read this book.

Classroom Application: This text connects to a social science unit on China. It talks about many things that are important in the Chinese culture. The author talks about Chinese food, games, holidays, and other activities. Students could use this book to compare Chinese culture with their own or to compare life in Chinatown to life in China. This book could also be used in a Writing Workshop as an example of free verse poetry and expressive language.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book talks about a lot of aspects of Chinese culture, both in China and in Chinatown, USA. Students can gain an appreciation for Chinese culture through reading this book. A discussion could be had about immigration and leaving your home behind for a new country, particularly one that has an area that is sort-of like your home country, but not exactly the same. In the book, it says, “But I don’t want to go to school, where the English words taste like metal in my mouth.” It also says, “When we left Hong Kong, we had to pack quick. So many things got left behind-a country, a language, a grandmother, and my animal chess game.”

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Title: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Author(s): Hena Khan

Illustrator/Photographer: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher and Year: Scholastic Inc. 2012

Number of pages: 21

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Culture, Family, Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, Poetry, K-1, 2-3, Social Science

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns follows a young girl as she explains the what the colors in her world are. Each page talks about a color and what object in the young girl’s religion are that color. A background knowledge of Muslim terms would be helpful, but there is a glossary in the back that defines many of the words. Each page is two sentences long and the sentences have end rhyme.

Classroom Application: This text can be used in the social sciences when talking about different religions. It could also be used to explain part of the culture of a student that is Muslim. This book could be used to introduce a unit on different religions and/or holidays, because it does talk a little about both Ramadan and Eid.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: As stated in the classroom application section, this text can be used to teach students about the Muslim religion. It is a brief introduction, so it could prompt students to look deeper into this religion or prompt them to ask questions and potentially research other religions. It can also be used in a unit on holidays as it says, “Brown is a date, plump and sweet. During Ramadan, it’s my favorite treat.” It also talks about Eid, “Purple is an Eid gift just for me. I open it up and love what I see.”