Childhood Milestones Celebrated with a Cultural Twist

universal-childhood-milestones-celebrated-with-a-cultural-twist-tooth-on-the-roof-border-51tn8sa6pjl-_sy485_bo1204203200_In today’s strife-ridden global world, it is reassuring to focus on the commonalities that unite us instead of the differences that divide us. Cultures around the world celebrate universal childhood milestones.  Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from around the World by Selby B. Beeler is a fun retrospective of the varied ways cultural traditions that celebrate children losing their baby teeth. Kids will get a tickle reading about the variety of celebrations. Some will feel similar, some quite unusual and some will strike their funny bones.

In the USA we believe the tooth fairy exchanges teeth for cash. In other cultures this job falls to birds, calves, mice, rats (Yikes!?!) and many more take the tooth and replace it with something valuable. Sometimes the tooth is planted, gold-plated, steeped in milk or simply tossed on the roof. Kids will learn how a specific practice is embraced within  different cultures. While it may seem silly to us, it’s folkloric  tradition in each respective culture–unique, mythical and charming. None is sillier than the rest. Taken as a totality, all the traditions are slightly goofy yet still fun to embrace.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens This story offers a chance to talk about differences between families as something interesting not as something to denigrate. Every family and culture, like the patches in a piecework quilt, contribute an integral element that is part of the overall beauty and success of the whole.

at-the-same-moment-around-teh-world-full-borderAt the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin takes the reader on a world-wide journey. Under a brilliant cloak of dawn-painted clouds, the book begins at 6:00 a.m in Dakkar, Senegal. Each subsequent  page begins with the same refrain: At the same moment in…

Encourage young readers to repeat the refrain, to scrutinize the illustrations for the details identified in the text. The book presents diversity of characters, locations and activities. The end flap includes a pull-out map of the world.

Help kids to understand that the events occur simultaneously even though the “hour” is different (because of time zone changes.) This story captures this complex concept of time in dreamy, detailed illustrations which carry the reader through twenty-four separate vignettes.

Children can see how similar the human story is regardless of where one lives in the world. Understanding this universality encourages tolerance and respect, something which benefits us all.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens This story offers a window onto the diverse ways people around the globe live. At the same time, it reinforces our commonalities. This is also true for families. Although our families came together  through adoption instead of by birth, we have much in common with all families regardless of the way we formed. This book can open conversations about what kinds of things a child’s birth and adoptive  families might be doing simultaneously. Some will be similar, some will not.

 

 

A Taste of Asia: Four Books That Expand Children’s Multiculturalism

The Magic BrushThe Magic Brush: A Story of Love, Family, and Chinese Characters has much to offer readers with an interest in diversity. (That includes all of us, right?) Written by Kat Yeh, (an Asian-American,) and illustrated by Huy Voun Lee (who was born in Cambodia) whose real-life experiences as Asian Americans infuses the story with authenticity.

The illustrations enrich the story effectively, e.g., when Grandfather stands in his doorway and wiggles his finger to invite Jasmine to enter. Along with her, the reader discovers a space infused with Asian elements: furniture, wall hanging, drawing table etc.

But the story  also captures a universal moment, of a grandparent passing on his wisdom, engaging his granddaughter in both the magical and factual elements of their culture. Huy Voun Lee skillfullly inserts Chinese characters so they both embellish the illustration and offer a chance to learn the characters. The book includes a pronunciation guide and a very brief  summary of Chinese art as well as explanations of the food treats described in the story.

Beyond the fascinating and valuable peek at Chinese culture, Kat Yeh relates a universal story of family connections.

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New ClothesOur next title offers a peek into Korean culture. Written and illustrated by Hyun-joo Bao, New Clothes for New Year’s Day  begins with a girl gazing from an open window. A breeze billows invitingly, beckoning the reader to step beyond it and explore the many ways the New Year is welcomed in Korea.

The story unfolds through the experiences of this small girl as she completes the complicated ritual of dressing for New Year’s Day in traditional Korean garb. Bright illustrations radiate energy as the tiny child struggles to don each item of her outfit. As she works with great care, ensuring that she places each element correctly, the reader observes her respectfulness for the traditions as evidenced in her dedication to detail. “It’s not easy…,” she says.

As in The Magic Brush: the artwork overflows with detail. This time we enjoy the beauty of Korean furnishings, style, colors and patterns. End matter includes information about how the holiday is observed, background about the traditional costume and the meaning behind it. A feast for the eyes, and an enjoyable venture into another culture.

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Zen ShortsAs a Caldecott Honor Book, Zen Shorts delivers breathtaking illustrations. This story too, begins with a child at a doorway. A boy tries desperately to capture his older brother’s attention. He yells through the closed door, “There’s a bear outside!” Brother remains skeptical and the door remains shut. Karl relates a play-by-play of the bear’s antics. Finally, his brother Michael opens the door, the siblings’ adventure begins.

They encounter Stillwater, a philosophizing panda bear who is armed with gentle Zen wisdom and an arsenal of anecdotes. A charming story that uses metaphors to make important points which are valuable for all –children as well as grown ups.

Zen Shorts is another double-barreled success both visually and textually satisfying that shows us “… how Addy, Michael,Karl–and Stillwater–became friends.” This lesson in sibling harmony is a  welcome one.

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LIVING IN CINAWritten by Carol P. Roman, a multi-award-winning author, If You Were Me and Lived in China is part of a series of non-fiction books which explore life in other countries through a child’s eyes. The book visits some of the cultural landmarks, introduces some vocabulary and, describes cultural traditions–ancient and modern.

An excellent first introduction to China. Also includes a pronunciation guide. Illustrated by Kelsea Wierenga.

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AQ Lens: Beyond the obvious benefits of putting children in touch with their cultural roots, by their very existence these books send a message that these traditions are worth noting, following and showcasing. It is an easy step to carrying the same sense of value to a child’s roots. Coming from another culture makes one “different.” But it isn’t something to hide; it is something to share and honor. Readers will notice the effort and determination which the main characters demonstrate.  Skills and capabilities grow out of hard work. This is a great message for them to absorb!

These books also demonstrate the universality of common daily activities: dressing, enjoying time with grandparents, preparing meals, celebrating holidays. As the reader follows the main characters through the narrative, children can note the value of self reliance, connection to family and of being part of a history–personal, familial as well as cultural. Children will enjoy learning about other cultures, whether it is part of their history or not. By expanding our children’s exposure to a variety of cultures and traditions, we better prepare them for life in this increasingly interconnected world. It is important for us to prepare them for this global citizenship.

 

Sharing Wishes Opens a Window to a Child’s Heart

wish by LevensSome people collect stamps, some people collect coins. I collect books. I believe in books. I turn to them for entertainment, for information, for comfort and for community. As an author, I view books as my channel for touching reader’s hearts and lives. As an adoptive parent and adoption coach, I search for books that enrich and nurture adoptive families.

Recently I learned of a picture book gem—Wish: Wishing Traditions around the World by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Elisa Kleven. While this lovely book has no direct adoption themes, it is still a delightful resource for adoptive families. The multimedia illustrations are a treasure. Rich in detail, children will pore over them with pleasure not only for their intricate beauty, but also to find the hidden treasures that Kleven has incorporated into the illustrations.

The theme of the book—wishing—resonates with readers, adults, and children alike. The international flavor that infuses the books is an added bonus. Roseann Thong has selected a fascinating array of unique traditions from around the globe. These easily lend themselves to enrichment experiences based on the tradition described in the home or classroom. Some of the wishing traditions offer an irresistible urge to perform. Talk about the various things children around the world wish for. Ask children to imagine what it would be like to yearn for that wish. Ask them to consider being that child and discuss the feelings and ideas that the wish evokes. This is a great way to raise awareness of the differences between American standards of living and that of other countries and to assist them in developing empathy.

I love books that have layers of experience for young readers. Wish is certainly one of these books. It will expand a child’s view of the world. And, as adults ask children to share their personal wishes, a wonderful window opens—the child reveals the secret yearnings of their hearts’ dreams. Wish offers an opportunity for some intimate and honest sharing—the kind of connection all families–especially adoptive families–want to nurture and cherish. The exquisitely detailed multi-media illustrations are a wonderful metaphor for the complexities of a family; each element contributes to the beauty of the whole. Wish is a quality addition to a family’s multicultural library and will contribute to a child’s ability to see himself as a global citizen, a member of an increasingly interconnected and interdependent and diverse world.