Book Review: Celebrate Thanksgiving

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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One of the best ways to educate readers about how people live elsewhere in the world is to relate stories that are memorable and fun to read. Sally Pomme Clayton has done that very thing in this wonderful book, which is subtitled "Stories from Central Asia."

It is a collection of stories and poems from the various countries of Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The stories and poems have similar themes, but each serves to illustrate the culture of its homeland.

Particular favorites of this reviewer include the following:

  • The Carpet of Dreams, in which a boy talks his way into being a traveler on the Silk Road and so finds the girl of his dreams;
  • Riddle Bazaar, a collection of riddles that are more difficult to solve than the subject matter might suggest;
  • The Heart of Your Friend, a beautiful tribute to friendship and companionship that is, in many cases, sorely lacking in stories of today;
  • The Bag of Trickness, in which a fast talker manages to escape big-time trouble by using his wits alone.

These are great stories. They captivate, they fire the imagination, and they shine the spotlight on cultures that not too many Western readers have experienced in any way. The illustrations, by Sophie Herxheimer, do much more than illustrate: They tell a story themselves. In many cases, the illustrations are more illustrative of the culture that is the backdrop for the story than the story itself.

Another great element is the interspersal of proverbs from the various countries and cultures, that not only help illustrate the ways that people in these various places lived but also serve to unify the book as a whole, bringing together geographical distances into one cultural whole.

As should be the case, reading these stories and poems made me want to learn more about the countries spotlighted and their histories and cultures.

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