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Ancient source

Festivals of the World By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien and Martin Palmer Hodder Wayland, pound;15.99

At first sight, this is an enticing 160-page book. With its sumptuous illustrations, fact boxes, recipes, maps and calendar wheels, it seems like a friendly guide to the festivals of the "usual" world faiths, and also those of, for example, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism and Rastafarians. It mentions plenty of European observances but, since it is obviously also destined for the American secular school market, not only do cakes become cookies, but the approach is firmly cultural, historical and objective.

There is little sense of what it actually means for a devout Hindu to bathe in the Ganges or for a Jewish family to gather for the Sabbath or Passover.

While the text makes few concessions to young readers, this is still a most attractive and comprehensive factual guide for teachers and older students - even if it does lump pagan carnivals, St Valentine and All Fools' Day together within its Christian section.

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