Around the World in Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing! Houses are decorated with festive lights, stores have holiday gifts front and center, and a feeling of cheer seems to float in the air. December is an important time as it has many holidays for people of all different backgrounds and beliefs. So, as you gear up for the holiday(s) of your choice, here is a guide to some December celebrations around the world.

 

Hanukkah, or the “festival of lights,” kicks off the December holiday season. According to the Jewish calendar, it begins on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev and is observed for eight days, which in 2018 is December 2-10. The holiday came into being when Jewish rebel warriors defeated invading Greeks. They sought to rededicate their desecrated temple, but there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days. In celebration, a menorah is lit, one candle each night, until all are kindled on the last day. The importance of oil is also celebrated with customary fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganya (jelly-filled doughnuts). Children play with a dreidel, or a four-sided spinning top, and receive Hanukkah gelt, or money, from older relatives.

 

Bodhi Day falls on December 8. It celebrates the day Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, attained enlightenment. Gautama, a prince of Nepal, left his luxurious lifestyle to seek the meaning of life upon seeing the suffering of human beings. After years of traveling and seeking, he sat under a Bodhi tree with a vow to fast and meditate until he found the answer. On the eighth day, he came to a number of realizations that would become the foundational principles for Buddhism. Celebrations of Bodhi Day vary widely between sects and can range from visiting shrines for additional meditation to performing kind acts and decorating the family Ficus tree, the species to which the Bodhi belongs. Rice and milk play an important role, as this was the first meal Siddhartha was offered following his enlightenment. Some families also make heart-shaped cookies like the leaves of a Bodhi tree.

 

Pancha Ganapati is a modern Hindu festival celebrated December 21-25. Created in 1985 by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami so Hindus could have something to celebrate during the Christian-dominated holiday season, the festival centers on Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of beginnings, knowledge, culture, and the removal of obstacles. A shrine with Ganesha at the center is created in the living room. Children dress the statue in a different color each morning to correspond with that day’s color and theme. The first day, for example, is yellow and celebrates family. Offerings are made to Ganesha, and children open gifts on the fifth day.

 

Kwanzaa, celebrated from December 26 to January 1, is another modern holiday. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an activist and professor of Africana studies, so all black people could have an alternative holiday to celebrate. Inspired by the “first fruit” harvest festivals in Africa, Kwanzaa is guided by seven principles (Nguzo Saba) that are the basis for strong community. One such principle is ujima, which means collective work and responsibility. Seven candles (Mishumaa saba) represent the principles of the holiday, and a candle is lit each day to celebrate the respective principle. Seven symbols are also used to decorate and represent Kwanzaa. Children receive gifts on the last day.

 

Omisoka (Japanese New Year’s Eve) was traditionally celebrated on the last day of the lunar calendar, but since switching to the Gregorian calendar now falls on December 31. This holiday centers on preparing for the clean slate of the New Year, while concluding the current year. People spend the day cleaning the house, decorating, paying off debts, bathing, and cooking large quantities of osechi, or traditional Japanese New Year foods. It is considered unlucky to cook in the kitchen or handle errands for the three days following New Year’s Eve, so it is important for people to complete the tasks before the end of the current year. Right before the end of the year, people gather to eat toshikoshi soba or toshikoshi udon. These long noodles represent long life. At midnight or in the following few days, people visit Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples for Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year. Amazake, or sweet sake, is traditionally passed out to crowds praying at the shrines.

 

Christmas is the most widely recognized December holiday, and as a result, Santa Claus has become an instantly recognizable symbol. Mall Santas aside, there is a real one that comes around with presents for all the nice children . . . right? In Bah! Humbug by Lorna and Lecia Balian, Margie’s older brother does not think Santa exists, and he sets out a Santa trap to prove Margie wrong. But a little holiday spirit can go a long way.

 

From all of us at Star Bright Books, happy holidays!

One Act of Kindness

Compassion is one of the most important lessons a caregiver can teach children, but it can be a little tough with the world we live in. A survey conducted by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the beloved Sesame Street, shows that 70 percent of parents and 86 percent of teachers “often worry that the world is an unkind place for children.” Though the high marks are worrisome, the survey also provides hope for the direction in which caregivers aim to take the next generation: 81 percent of parents and 84 percent of teachers agree that “people need to be responsible for helping their own children and families and other people in society.”

 

As children grow and learn more about the world they inhabit, we hope they become compassionate and empathetic toward everyone, without the awful –isms and –phobias of society. Aside from making the world a better place, there are other reasons for kids to be kind—it is human nature. Research shows that humans are inherently good and have an instinct to be cooperative. This is great news for humanity, but sometimes children still need a little nudge in the right direction to fulfill this human need.

 

Raising children to become thoughtful and generous humanitarians may seem like a tall order. How can adults expect that from children when it is not always easy for adults themselves to be kind? It is, however, important to remember that being kind is a choice. As with other choice-based behaviors, kindness can be learned and internalized. Ages 4-7 is a critical learning period for children, so lessons on how to be kind should start as soon as possible and be consistently reinforced as they grow.

 

One way to demonstrate the importance of kindness is through modeling. According to Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, people internalize behaviors by observing others perform those same behaviors. In short, children often imitate adults. With this in mind, adults can model kind behaviors that align with the lessons they teach children; thus, children can internalize the information and perform the same behaviors themselves. Consistency between the lessons being taught and one’s own behavior will help a child understand how to truly be kind in practice.

 

Another way to encourage kind behavior in children is to volunteer for the community together. There are many ways to get involved! Sit down with children and discuss the impact of each option and which avenue to take. Some examples include volunteering at an animal shelter, starting a canned-food drive, or picking up trash at the beach. Even gathering clothes and items around the house and donating them to a charitable cause can have a huge impact on those who need it—and inspire children to continue doing good deeds from the kindness of their hearts.

 

It is important to remember that no act of kindness is too small. This lesson is apparent in A Circle of Friends, where one child’s generous act of sharing his snack with a homeless man sparks a chain reaction of caring. An action that may seem miniscule to one person can mean the world to another.

 

Being kind is not always easy, especially when one is told to do otherwise. In Hunter and His Dog, a hunter takes his new dog on a hunting trip. However, upon seeing injured birds, the dog feels compassion and takes them away from the hunter to heal. In going against the hunter’s orders and instead choosing to be kind and empathetic, the dog saves the birds’ lives.

 

During this season of giving, what acts of kindness can you take to help someone in need?

A Bird’s Eye View of the City

Sixty years ago, the peregrine falcon was on the verge of dying off in the United States. At the time, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was widely used as a pesticide for both agriculture and households, and it proved to be poisonous to many forms of wildlife, including fish, bald eagles, and falcons. DDT was especially harmful to apex predators because the chemicals accumulated internally as infected animals were eaten. DDT also caused falcon eggshells to thin, leading to higher rates of broken eggs.

 

It was not until biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson that these issues became known. Her book Silent Spring exposed the harmful side effects that pesticides such as DDT had on the environment. Although Carson’s findings were initially dismissed or criticized, John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee eventually investigated and confirmed the truth of her book, leading to policy changes.

 

With the ban of DDT  and the passing of the Endangered Species Act in the early ’70s, the peregrine falcon population finally had a chance to recover from years of decline. A captive breeding program was put into place to help boost the dwindling population. But another issue arose when it came time to release the fledgling falcons into the wild. Because they were not yet fully mature, the falcons were vulnerable to a number of predators, including owls and foxes. In order to survive, this was not a gamble the species could afford.

 

Then, researchers came up with a radical solution inspired by history. Falcons have been documented nesting in cathedrals and towers as far back as the Middle Ages. In hopes that an urban environment would present fewer threats to growing falcons, researchers garnered the support of government agencies, environmental groups, and the public to introduce the birds to their new homes. The captive birds were released on high-rise buildings in various cities across the US, particularly in regions where the falcon population was especially low. By the mid-1980s, the falcon population had slowly, but steadily, increased. Driven by this success, researchers continued releasing falcons into cities.

 

Eventually, high-rise buildings became homes for more than just captive bred falcons. Wild falcons were also able to adapt to changing landscapes and rapid urbanization by settling into cities. This adaptability is attributed to similarities in habitat. Falcons outside of cities often nest on cliff edges, a habitat well mimicked by tall structures like skyscrapers and bridges. Moreover, falcons mainly feed on medium-sized birds such as pigeons, which are abundant in urban areas.

 

As well as peregrine falcons have taken to urban areas, the unnatural environment does present threats and challenges not found in the wild. Falcons are not nest builders, preferring instead to dig a hole in which to lay eggs. Since this is not possible on a human-made structure, nesting boxes must be provided to keep eggs from rolling off buildings. Falcons are also particular about nest disturbances. Anything from helicopters to construction—and even nearby human activities—could prevent a successful nesting. Young falcons just spreading their wings also face the possibility of falling off structures without the updraft winds found at cliffs to help them learn to fly. The falcon population has an effect on humans as well. In some cities such as New York, which is home to about 40 falcons, they can interfere with construction projects due to their territorial nature.

 

Despite the challenges, peregrine falcons have made an astounding comeback and have even become a shining example of urban wildlife. Today, peregrine falcons are no longer endangered; they are now classified as a species of least concern. Their success story can hopefully serve as a model for the rescue efforts of other species on the brink of dying off.

 

Is your city home to peregrine falcons? In City Birds, two falcon hatchlings named Stars and Stripes call a skyscraper in Cleveland, Ohio, home. The humorous story follows the two young birds as they learn to navigate the real-life challenges of their big-city home.

Remembering Kristallnacht

It has been 80 years since Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), yet today there are still eerie echoes of the horrific event. Kristallnacht was an organized attack against Jewish people in Nazi Germany that took place on November 9 and 10, 1938. Kristallnacht is also known as the Night of Broken Glass, named for the shattered glass from store windows and synagogues that blanketed the streets in the aftermath of the attacks. These attacks devastated the Jewish community, leaving over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed and nearly 100 Jews dead. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

 

Although news of the brutal event was met by shock and outrage internationally, Kristallnacht was the culmination of anti-Semitic policies and beliefs in Nazi Germany. Prior to the rise of the Nazis, Jews in Germany generally had the same legal rights as all German citizens, although they were banned from university teaching positions. However, after Hitler came to power as chancellor in 1933, the Nazis began to broadcast propaganda that singled out German Jews as the reason for various misfortunes, such as Germany’s loss in World War I. This was quickly followed by anti-Semitic laws that systematically removed Jews’ rights. Jewish people could no longer be employed in civil service posts, including any teaching positions, not just at the university level. The Nazis also organized a boycott of Jewish businesses, and German businesses stopped serving Jews.

 

These policies culminated in the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour forbade marriage and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans. It also prevented the employment of German women under 45 in Jewish households, under the assumption workers would be forced into such relations by Jewish men. Another policy, the Reich Citizenship Law, stated that only those with “German or kindred blood” were citizens of Germany; everyone else would be subjects of the state, stripped of basic rights. This law never defined “German or kindred blood,” but it did identify Jews as a race, rather than a religious community. Therefore, anyone who had a grandparent born into a Jewish religious community was considered Jewish, whether or not they identified as one. German allies such as Italy, Romania, and Slovakia passed similar laws. It is important to note that although these laws specifically targeted Jews, they also applied to black and Romani people.

 

The Nuremberg Race Laws allowed Hitler and the Nazis to spread the anti-Semitic sentiments that fueled their party in an organized manner. Many Jews sought to emigrate elsewhere, but faced difficulties both domestically (they were required to pay 90 percent of their wealth to Germany as tax for leaving) and internationally (other countries condemned Germany’s anti-Semitism, but refused to take in Jewish immigrants). The Nazis wanted to further escalate their anti-Semitic campaign; they just needed the right opportunity.

 

And then came the perfect scenario: the shooting of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath at the German embassy in Paris. The perpetrator was Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish-Jew refugee born in Germany. The shooting is commonly thought to be politically motivated, as anti-Semitism displaced the Grynszpan family from Germany, where they had lived for many years. Grynszpan made no attempt to escape arrest after the shooting. In custody, the French police found in Grynszpan’s pocket a postcard addressed to his parents that, in part, read, “. . . I could not do otherwise, may God forgive me, the heart bleeds when I hear of your tragedy and that of the 12,000 Jews. I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do. Forgive me. . . .” Grynszpan was taken into Nazi custody, but his scheduled trial was canceled and his fate remains unknown to this day.

 

In response, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels ordered Nazi Stormtroopers to ignite violent riots disguised as German people protesting against Jews. Then, he sent instructions to the police and army to only interfere if the rioting threatened non-Jewish businesses. And thus, Kristallnacht commenced.

 

Kristallnacht has been largely regarded as a precursor to the “Final Solution” and the Holocaust. Although several countries severed diplomatic relations with Germany over the attacks, there were largely no consequences to the Nazis, enabling them to further destroy the Jewish community.

 

It is more important now than ever to teach tragic events like Kristallnacht so we as a society do not repeat the atrocities. By studying Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, we come to understand how these events were not isolated incidents, but rather a climax of variables such as authoritarianism, racism, dehumanization, and the neutral response of people not directly affected by such policies. It is only by becoming aware of the cause and effect of Kristallnacht, the Holocaust, and other similar events that we can work to prevent future brutal incidents.

 

Here at Star Bright Books, we aim to do our part to teach the lessons gleaned from the Holocaust by engaging readers with books about the time period from varying perspectives. Hidden Letters provides a look at life under Nazi rule. Philip “Flip” Slier, only 18 when he was sent to a concentration camp in Holland, wrote detailed letters to his parents almost every day, chronicling his life under German occupation. In Poland, German officer Wilm Hosenfeld lived his life in accordance to his own moral compass, despite the contradiction with the beliefs of Germany’s leadership. Defying the Nazis follows Hosenfeld’s life from his youth absorbed in nationalist propaganda to his maturity into a brave soul who helped rescue dozens of people from the Nazi regime.

 

Never again.

Thanksgiving: An Origin Story

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and many people are already planning what to cook for their dinner spread. While feasting and giving thanks this season, consider the true origin of this long-standing tradition. The idea of Thanksgiving has changed quite a bit in the few hundred years it has been around, but how did it become the ingrained celebration it is today?

 

Modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations still heavily rely on the myth of the joyous first Thanksgiving feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. However, it is important to know the true context from which this holiday was born to help prevent further erasure of the injustices inflicted upon Native Americans. While this does not make up for the past, it is certainly a step toward recognizing the oppression indigenous tribes have faced, and still face today.

 

“The First Thanksgiving” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, which depicts the romanticized version of the holiday. 

The common knowledge of the holiday depicts the first Thanksgiving as a harmonious meal between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe in 1621. The Wampanoag extended aid to the Pilgrims, who were near starvation, by bringing them much-needed supplies and teaching them how to grow their own crops. To commemorate their alliance and an abundant harvest, the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag to a three-day celebration.

 

This, however, is a misrepresentation of the true history behind Thanksgiving. Although the feast did take place, the situation was quite tense. The two groups were distrustful allies who partnered up out of necessity. The Wampanoag needed more people to defend against other tribes; the Pilgrims viewed the Wampanoag as uncivilized, but were at great risk of dying out without aid. An influx of colonizers and a change in leadership on both sides ended the temporary peace. After the relationship dissolved, the possibility of fostering similar peace treaties squickly soured.

 

Increasingly, historians are pointing to a much darker event as a precursor to Thanksgiving: the Mystic Massacre. The Mystic Massacre was the culmination of the Pequot War, a three-year struggle with colonists over the tribe’s land. In 1637, Puritan forces and their Native allies launched a surprise attack on the Pequot tribe as they celebrated their own Thanksgiving in present-day Mystic, Connecticut. Colonial forces surrounded the Pequot tribe’s enclosed settlement and set fire to it, effectively trapping and murdering the people inside, from warriors to children.

 

The Mystic Massacre and two similar bloodbaths decimated the Pequot tribe. Surviving members were either sold into slavery or assimilated into neighboring tribes. Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop expressed gratitude for the successful destruction of the tribe, and thus every massacre thereafter was subsequently followed by feasting and giving thanks.

 

In 1789, under the new US constitution, George Washington issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation, but the holiday was only recognized in the New England states for many years. Sarah Josepha Hale, an author and editor most famous for writing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” started a campaign to have Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday in 1827 by sending letters to the president, starting with Zachary Taylor. Her efforts paid off with Abraham Lincoln. Seeing an opportunity to unify the country in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Although the Civil War would not end for another two years, Thanksgiving entered the public consciousness as a moment when two opposing factions could peacefully come together.

 

Similar to many aspects of modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations, turkeys did not rise to prominence until fairly recently. This particular tradition also came about thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale. In 1854, Hale heard the journal of William Bradford, former governor of Plymouth Colony, had been rediscovered. She became fixated on one innocuous sentence about the Pilgrims hunting wild turkey in the fall. Eating turkey for Thanksgiving was never stated in Bradford’s account, but Hale began publishing recipes for roasted turkey in conjunction with the holiday and the pairing gained in popularity.

 

Turkeys are now synonymous with Thanksgiving, but what if the turkey you want to eat is your friend? In Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers, written by Lorna Balian and illustrated by Lecia Balian, Mrs. Gumm raises a turkey to eat on Thanksgiving, but her plans go awry. This twist on tradition will help children understand one part of modern-day Thanksgiving customs. Next time you and your family are at a Thanksgiving dinner with a roasted turkey on the table, take a moment to remember the long history of this holiday.

Nutrition is the Mission

Everyone has heard the spiel about eating more fruits and vegetables, and it seems like there are more reasons discovered everyday to do so. Fruits and vegetables have so many vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health; they can even reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer!

Eating the Rainbow (Haitian Creole/Spanish edition)

 

More specifically, fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, or compounds produced by plants. These are better known as antioxidants. There are thousands of phytonutrients in plant-based foods, each with different benefits, so it is important to eat a wide variety. The easiest way to identify phytonutrients is by the color of fruits and vegetables. One common phytonutrient is beta carotene, present in dark, leafy greens like kale or orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, and is known to benefit vision and skin health.

 

Fruits and vegetables are especially beneficial for little tots who need a lot of nutrition to grow, but sometimes it can be a struggle to get them to eat healthy foods. While parents and caretakers should not force children to eat more fruits and vegetables, there are ways to gently encourage this habit that has lifelong benefits.

 

One way to get children excited is by involving them in food prep and planning. This can range from allowing children to choose the fruit or vegetable they want to eat to counting out berries in a bowl (with an added early math learning opportunity!). Even more fun is engaging children with an educational gardening activity!

 

Garden-based learning helps children develop many important skills beyond the traditional classroom setting. This includes the opportunity to engage little learners in plant life cycles, environmental awareness, and food sources.

What’s In My Garden? (English edition)

 

Although gardening may seem like a difficult activity, it is one that can be started right in the kitchen. Many fruits and vegetables can be grown from food scraps that are normally discarded. This includes seeds from citrus fruits and avocados, carrot heads, old cloves of garlic, sweet potatoes, and leftover chunks of ginger.

 

Sprouting a fruit or vegetable, like an avocado seed, takes patience, but is fun to set up and observe. You can start your own avocado plant at home in these  easy steps.

 

While waiting for your fruit or vegetable to grow, continue introducing children to bright and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Youngsters can learn the names of various fruits and vegetables with Eating the Rainbow. Fruits and vegetables are grouped by colors, and large, bright photographs of toddlers enjoying these delicious snacks are sure to entice readers!

 

Name the colors of the fruits and vegetables as they come straight from the source in What’s In My Garden? Children will also learn the names of vegetables as they lift the flaps to gather them into their basket. These fun reads are sure to get children started on recognizing various fruits and vegetables and on the path to nutrition awareness!

A Brief History of Trick or Treating

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!

 

It’s almost Halloween, and that means the time for little gremlins to descend upon houses and ask for candy is near. As people flock to stores to stock up on fun-size chocolates, consider this: Halloween is the most commercially successful holiday in the United States after Christmas. Studies estimate that Americans spend $2.7 billion on candy for Halloween. And this number doesn’t account for costumes or decorations! How on earth did this very expensive, but much loved, tradition come to be?

 

The Celts, who lived in modern-day England, Ireland, and France as early as 1400 B.C., celebrated the festival of Samhain from October 31 to November 1 to mark the separation of the lighter half (summer) and darker half (winter) of the year. They believed that during this time, the boundaries between the human world and the spirit world weakened, allowing spirits to cross over into the human world. People often dressed up as spirits in order to blend in, and therefore avoid unpleasant encounters, with the actual spirits.

Humbug Witch

 

Then came Christianity. As Christianity spread, the church took these pagan traditions and layered in their own religious meaning in 1000 A.D. The new hybrid celebration not only replaced Samhain traditions, but was also a way for the church to encourage all classes to demonstrate Christian actions. Children and poor people would go around “guising,” or disguising themselves as representatives of the dead or the dead themselves, to houses of the rich and beg for food in exchange for prayers. A specific cake was given out called “soul cakes,” and thus this practice became known as “souling.”

 

In the nineteenth century, this practice shifted. Children still dressed up, but instead offered performances—such as singing, telling jokes, or other “tricks”—for food or money. This tradition made its way to America with the waves of immigrants, where it underwent another transformation into the more universally practiced “trick or treating.”

 

It is unknown from where exactly the term “trick or treat” came, but the first recorded mention was in a Canadian newspaper in 1927, and the name and the practice gained traction throughout Canada and the US. Instead of performing for treats, children pulled pranks or, in extreme cases, vandalized if they did not receive candy. As expected, this literal form of trick or treating was not popular with many adults and there was a lot of pushback against it.

 

Witches

There was a brief period during World War II when this tradition was put on hold because of sugar rations, but the celebration returned to full force after the war with less tricking and more treating. With the new economic stability of the country, it became more common and convenient to give out prepackaged candy, in contrast to the treats of money or nuts that were previously favored. And that is how candy companies came to capitalize upon on this particular holiday, much to the joy of all the munchkins getting free candy.

 

Trick or treat, feed my need, give me something good to read! Get your little goblin goobers in the Halloween mood with adventurous friends in Witches or teach them to cast spooky spells (kind of) with Humbug Witch. These magical tales will bewitch your little monsters with the power of storytelling, no sugar needed!

 

Happy trick or treating everyone!

Reading Faces Like a Book

It is never too early to start learning about emotions. A child’s social and emotional development begins in infancy and continues all the way into adulthood. When children are very young, they learn to recognize their own emotions by the physical markers that come with feelings. Examples of this include having butterflies in your stomach when you are nervous or smiling when you are happy.

My Face Book (Hindi/English edition)

Related to this is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. This is important because understanding other people’s feelings allows us to appropriately respond to a situation. Studies have shown that empathetic skills can lead to children having more positive relationships with their peers and becoming more engaged in school. These skills continue to have an impact later in life in the form of more meaningful relationships and greater professional success.

 

One of the first steps in developing empathy is learning to recognize other people’s emotions, and the easiest way to do this is by recognizing physical cues, such as facial expressions. Exposing young children to different facial expressions and talking to them about what the emotions behind them mean can help develop their social and emotional skills early on.

My Face Book (Bosnian/English edition)

My Face Book, for little readers ages 0-2, depicts diverse baby faces displaying a range of emotions. Not only will babies enjoy looking at pictures of fellow babies, but this is also a great book to help them associate an emotion with a respective facial expression. My Face Book is a tool for parents and caregivers to help their babies recognize common cues for these emotions, as well as teach babies to understand and appreciate people of different ethnicities and cultures.

 

Tagalog/English Edition

My Face Book has consistently been one of Star Bright Books’s bestselling titles since it was published in 2011. It has been named a Top 100 Board Book on a School Library Journal blog poll, a Best Books for Babies, and a Read to Me! 50 Best Books for Babies.

 

At Star Bright Books, we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to read and learn in their native tongue. To foster this language development, we strive to make our books available in as many English bilingual editions as possible. With the recent additions of the Bosnian/English, Hindi/English, and Tagalog/English editions, My Face Book is now available in 22 languages.

Indigenous People’s Day

Traditionally, the second Monday of October has been celebrated in the United States as Columbus Day, commemorating the day Christopher Columbus stepped foot on North America. There has been much criticism of this holiday due to Columbus and other Europeans’ treatment of the Native American population, but it was not until the 1990s that this criticism really started to gain momentum.

 

Indigenous People’s Day is a counter-celebration to Columbus Day that celebrates Native Americans and their culture. Many US cities have chosen to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in lieu of Columbus Day (including Cambridge, MA, where we are headquartered!). Indigenous People’s Day shows a wider scope of our history without glorifying a man who inflicted great cruelty on the native population while colonizing their lands. Instead, we acknowledge all the wrongs that Native Americans have suffered and honor their culture and traditions.

 

 

There is still quite a ways to go before we fully acknowledge and accept our country’s deep roots in colonization, but there are steps we can take to ensure that we are heading in the right direction. One of the most important things we can do is teach our children about diversity, inclusivity, and cultural awareness.

 

Loving Me and Cradle Me are great books to introduce babies to various Native American cultures. Loving Me depicts a native family caring for a child. The family is not just limited to parents; it is a multigenerational one, from great grandmother to big sister. Each family member actively participates in the loving and rearing of the children, an important aspect of Native American families.

 

 

Cradle Me showcases different cradleboards used to carry babies. These cradleboards have long been a part of many tribes’ tradition, and many still use them today. Cradleboards vary from tribe to tribe, but one common thread is that they are often decorated by the baby’s family as a way to show love for the newest member of the family.

 

Another way culture is expressed is through language. Many Native American languages are no longer spoken, but tribes across the country are fighting to save their native languages through technology or education of the next generation.

 

At Star Bright Books, we recognize the importance of preserving Native American languages and cultures. We carry Cradle Me and Loving Me in Navajo/English and Ojibwe/English so children can see themselves represented in books and read stories in their native tongues. For more information on these languages or the preservation efforts, please visit the First Nations Development Institute or Native Languages.

 

Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day this year on October 8!

A Sweet Story for Sweet Dreams

star-bright-books-good-night-little-sea-otter-cover

Good Night, Little Sea Otter

Written by Janet Halfmann | Illustrated by Wish Williams

Ages 3 – 6

With their sweet faces and mischievous, playful personalities, sea otters may be one of the most “kid-like” animals on the planet. And, like children, they sure know how to have fun! Underwater, they glide, twist, twirl, and tumble with the same enthusiasm as kids on a playground, popping up to float on their backs like little ones lying on the ground to watch the clouds float by.

 

Sea otters also seem to know all about friendship—holding hands, playing in groups, and even sharing snacks (ingeniously prepared and served on their tummies!) When it’s naptime or bedtime, little sea otters are as snuggly as kids—or are kids as snuggly as little sea otters? Either way, both love to cuddle in a warm hug and a cozy blanket as they drift off to sleep.

star-bright-books-good-night-little-sea-otter-saying-good-night-to-harbor-seals

Good Night Little Sea Otter text copyright Janet Halfmann, Illustration copyright Wish Williams.

Janet Halfmann’s and Wish Williams’ adorable Good Night, Little Sea Otter delights in the lively antics of these loveable sea animals as the baby sea otter can’t go to sleep without saying “good-night” to all of her friends. As Little Sea Otter calls out to the seals, seagulls, snails and sea slugs, the fish, crabs, sea stars and sea urchins, they in turn are excited to say “good-night” to her as well. But as the gently rocking waves, twinkling stars, and Mama’s whispers quiet the baby, Little Sea Otter still feels she’s left someone out. Who can it be?

 

Young readers will be enchanted by this charming and joyful bedtime story that reassures them that even as they are going to sleep, they have a world of friends waiting and happy to greet them in the morning.

 

Sweet dreams!

star-bright-books-good-night-little-sea-otter-fish-scene

Good Night Little Sea Otter text copyright Janet Halfmann, Illustration copyright Wish Williams.

Good Night, Little Sea Otter is also published in these bilingual editions:

 

Arabic/English | Burmese Karen/English | Burmese/English | Chinese English/English | French/English | Hmong/English | Navajo/English | Portuguese/English | Spanish/English | Spanish/English (Board Book) 

 

Good Night, Little Sea Otter is available on the Star Bright Books Website:

Hardcover | Paperback | Board Book

 

And with these booksellers:

Amazon | IndieBound

 

You can connect with author Janet Halfmann on:

Her Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Download These Fun Good Night, Little Sea Otter Activities!

star-bright-books-good-night-little-sea-otter-word-search       star-bright-books-good-night-little-sea-otter-maze

Here are the Solutions: Word Search Solution | Maze Solution