Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations

Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations

Catherine Rodina
Illustrator:  Jacqui Oakley 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Kids Can Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-1554535941

All around the world people use lights of various kinds to brighten celebrations. Some of the celebrations mark the changing of the seasons, while others have a spiritual component. Some honor people and events from the past, and some look towards what is to come. By the glow of the sun, the moon, candles, lantern and bonfires “light connects us, warms our hearts and brings us hope for a brighter tomorrow.”

We begin our story about light celebrations around the world in January. In a very small part of world, on the Shetland Islands in Scotland, they happen to host the “the largest fire festival in Europe.” During Up Kelly Aa the people of these islands remember the days, more than one thousand years ago, when the Vikings lived there. For months the islanders work on building a big Viking ship of wood. On the day of the event they dress up in Viking costumes, and as it gets dark the people parade through the town carrying flaming torches. The torches are then thrown into the ship, which is burned.

On the first Sunday in March the people in Valencia, Spain, honor Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. For the festival, Las Fallas, people in neighborhoods build enormous puppets called ninots. People come from far and wide to see the puppets, and on the last day of the festival, all the puppets – except the one that is considered the best – are burned at midnight. Fireworks are set off and the night is known as Nit del Foc, or night of fire.

In Japan families celebrate Obon every August. This is the Buddhist Festival of the Dead when, it is said, the dead come home to be with their families. People clean and decorate their homes and set up alters where gifts of fruits, vegetables and sweets are placed for the visitors. Small bonfires are lit outside houses to guide the spirits of the dead back to their homes.

In all the author of this book tells us about thirty-one festivals and events that take place in countries around the world. In each case a child from the country where the festival takes place tells us about the event, describing its origins and its traditions.

Children will be fascinated to see how many specials days involve the use of fire or light in some way. They may even like to try celebrating some of the festivals in their own homes.