FIESTA! SERIES. China, Germany, India,Ireland Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Russia. Franklin Watts pound;9.99 each.
A CALENDAR OF FESTIVALS. Retold by Cherry Gilchrist. Barefoot Bookspound;12.99.
You could argue that the comprehensive Franklin Watts series presents something of a tourist's eye view of the countries it covers. There is much more to Ireland, for example, than leprechauns, potatoes and the Roman Catholic church. But it is important to see the series for what it is, and not to criticise it for its inadequate coverage of economic geography. These books set out to cover folklore, tradition, food, fairs, festivals and fun, and in this they succeed admirably.
They are beautifully designed, with excellent colour photographs and illustrations.
If I have a favourite it is the volume on India, which will have special interest for many pupils. The artwork here is sumptuous, and each of the major religions has a mention, with an illustrated story and pictures of artefacts. The full page reproduction of pictures of the Sikh gurus is particularly striking.
Best of all, there are lots of practical activities for readers to do - dolls and puppets to make, recipes for everything from Mexican hot chocolate to an Irish steak sandwich ("Put steak on one piece of the bread and spread with mustard. Top with the remaining bread and press together." What more could you ask for?) Each volume, too, has traditional religious and folk stories.
The focus of A Calendar of Festivals is rather different. It takes eight festivals, each from a different religion or tradition - Purim (Jewish), Holi (Hindu), Vesak (Buddhist), Tanabata (Japanese), Hallowe'en (Celtic), Christmas (Christian), Kwanzaa (Caribbean) and New Year (Russian).
Each chapter, after an introduction describing the festival, tells the important story that underlies it. So for Purim we have the story of Esther, for Hallowe'en we have an Irish changeling tale, and for Christmas we have the story of the birth of Jesus. The stories are suitable for reading aloud, and would make good assembly material. This book is also beautifully produced and illustrated.