Reviewed by Gerard Healy
Another delightful children’s book from Ashleigh Barton and Martina Heiduczek, who previously collaborated on What Do You Call Your Grandpa? (2020) and What Do You Call Your Grandma? (2021). This latest book follows the same pattern, with a double-page spread for each topic, that is made up of a clever rhyming verse surrounded by Martina’s wonderful illustrations.
This time the focus is on how different people around the world celebrate the end or the start of the calendar year. As you might expect there is often a gathering of loved ones and the sharing of special food but some communities go further and organise festivals. We learn that in The Phillipines, villagers compete to make elaborate figures that are up to six metres tall, while people welcome in the Chinese New Year with dragon dances and the like.
Thinking of the Chinese ceremonies reminds us that different cultures follow different calendars. The Chinese mark the Lunar New Year, while Muslims and Jews use their own timetables to mark important dates.
Since our December period covers Christmas, this means religious ceremonies such as the Catholic Mass are celebrated. In Caracas, Venezuela so many people like to skate to church each morning at this time that the streets are closed to traffic until 8am. We learn this and other interesting facts about each celebration in the end-notes.
Since this is a book that can be shared between generations, one activity for adults could be to try and guess where each celebration is, from the illustrations alone. There are a few obvious ones, such as the Eiffel Tower in the distance of a cityscape, which places it in Paris of course. Also, the Star of David symbol and candlesticks aglow in the windows gives a strong hint of an Israeli location (and it is Jerusalem). However, some are not as clear.
There is the street scene with people admiring Christmas decorations in shop windows. Could be almost anywhere you would think, but it turns out to be fairly close (geographically). Then there is the boy and his dad on a fairground ride with ice-skaters below. So a cold country with water in the background and a town hall building, which doesn’t narrow the choices much. Perhaps Europe or North America, so you may as well have a guess anyway.
Would you allow me a minor gripe? In the store window of the major shopping centre with the Christmas display there are handbags on the side. But why handbags? Wouldn’t something more seasonal, such as toys, cakes or decorations, be more appropriate?
The suggested age group for this book is 4 plus and I would agree. The amount and depth of the information is appropriate for this younger age group and the messages are overwhelmingly positive. Adult carers would be encouraged to share the book and reflect on how we celebrate events in Australia.
There’s often some interesting history behind some of the celebrations. The end-notes say that the exact origins of the first Junkanoo parade in the Bahamas are not known. But according to Around the World in 500 Festivals by Steve Davey (2013), they probably started in the 16th and 17th centuries, “when plantation slaves celebrated their allotted two days annual leave with a party that reminded them of their African roots” (44). Did you catch that…two days annual leave! He adds that today it still reflects its African roots in the prevailing bold colours and pulsating rhymes of goatskin drums, shrill whistles, horns and cowbells.
I would recommend this book for families and suggest you look out for the companion titles on Grandparents, if you don’t already have them.
Ashleigh Barton decided she wanted to be a writer at age 6. She has a law degree and has worked in marketing and publishing for children’s books. She has previously written What Do You Call Your Grandpa? and What Do You Call Your Grandma? and she lives in Sydney with her husband and two bookworms.
Martina Heiduczek grew up in a small village on the Baltic Sea in Germany but now lives in Australia. She uses a mixture of digital and traditional media to create happy images to evoke emotion and thought in young and old. She has won awards for We Are Wolves (2021) CBCA Book of the Year Awards as well as What Do You Call Your Grandpa? CBCA Book of the Year Awards- Notable Book. Her work on Duck, Egg, Apple was shortlisted by Speech Pathology Australia for their Book of the Year Awards.
What Do You Do to Celebrate?
By Ashleigh Barton (writer) and Martina Heiduczek (illustrator)
32pp; $19.99 (HB)