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WORLD PARTY. Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures explores joyous occasions all over the globe.

From The Asian Reporter, V17, #18 (May 1, 2007), page 14.

A sumptuous feast

Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures

Written and photographed by Jan Reynolds

Lee & Low Books, 2006

Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.95

By Josephine Bridges

Jan Reynolds’s exploration of joyous occasions all over the globe is as enthusiastic as the celebrations themselves. Vibrant photographs of eight cultures, two of them Asian, shimmer on the pages of this book. Celebrate! is aimed at readers between the ages of five and nine, but there’s something for everyone to learn here.

Divided into six sections, each beginning with a border photograph of braided yarn, woven garments and carpets, or appliqué, Celebrate! outlines what people do when they are happy. We are all, of course, very alike and very different. The first section is called "We Gather Together" and begins with a description and photograph of wool-clad Tibetans and Sherpas who gather in the Thami Valley for a three-day celebration called Mani Rimdu. Contrast this with Balinese men wearing black-and-white checkered wraparound skirts at an ancient dance ritual called Sanghyang.

"We Eat and Drink" is the second section of Celebrate!, and here we learn that the "Balinese bake elaborate cakes for celebrations," including one pictured, which "represents the entire universe." A Tibetan woman models beads made of turquoise, coral, and amber worn for a zendi, or wedding, in the section titled "We Decorate Ourselves."

"Balinese children and adults play in a gamelan, or orchestra, creating music to accompany a traditional story presented as a play," we learn in "We Play Music." Tibetan musicians blow seashells to invoke good fortune. "The deep sounds from the shells can be heard for miles, bringing comfort to all who hear them. These shells are still found in the high Himalaya, indicating that long ago this area was under the sea." The photographs of these two groups of musicians are placed side by side, encouraging readers to compare and contrast the two.

"We Dance" is an especially opulent section, with photographs of graceful Balinese women performing the Legong dance, and a not-very-scary monster whirling its gleaming full skirt in the Tibetan Mani Rimdu ceremony. The Legong dance is based on a traditional story that "illustrates the value of love and truth." The Tibetan dances "tell old stories about how to live a loving, compassionate life," but many of them are humorous, so the audience can learn and laugh at the same time.

Celebrate! comes to a close with "We Use Fire." Here Tibetans in marvelous hats burn an ornate mandala, symbolizing "the idea that human beings should let go of material objects not essential to life," and a young Balinese man walks on hot coals to the accompaniment of others chanting around him.

Jan Reynolds also describes celebrations among the Tuareg of the Sahara desert, Australian Aborigines, the Sami from the European Arctic Circle, the Yanomami of the Amazon basin, the Inuit from the far north of North America, and various residents of the United States. It’s a sumptuous feast.

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books

  Amazon