Jewish Festivals Throughout the Year is part of a six-book series including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivals, all by author Anita Ganeri. Designed in color, with large type, informational sidebars and multiple images on each page, the book is inviting for young students of religion. The series was first published in the U.K. and Australia by Franklin Watts, a publisher of nonfiction for children that has a line of about ten series of Religious Education books. These origins are apparent in the resources listed at the back of the book, which include two American websites, two British, and two Australian.
The book opens with a two-page introduction to Judaism, defining a Jew as “anyone born of a Jewish mother…even if he or she does not actively follow any religious practices,” and giving a brief overview of Jewish history. In clear and generally precise prose, the book goes on to describe ten Jewish festivals, beginning with Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah. There are also a few suggested activities, like making a Rosh Hashanah card and a Purim groggor. While the book doesn’t directly mention the range of Jewish practices, the photographs show observant Jews from a variety of backgrounds.
Holidays are a tangible aspect of religion, and usually fun as well — so the festivals concept is a lovely way to teach a multicultural group of children about different religions. The Year of Festivals books could fit nicely into a Religious Education curriculum at a British school. In the U.S., where religion is usually not taught in public schools, it’s a little harder to see where the series would find its place. Jewish Festivals Throughout the Year doesn’t seem suited to teaching Jewish children, since it refers to Jews in the third person (e.g., “They believe…”). But the book does offer an accurate, coherent tool for educating children about the Jewish religion. Ages 6 – 9