The United States is a melting pot of peoples and cultures. The festivals celebrated in this country are no exception. Many American festivals are a mix of beliefs and traditions from another country, with new traditions developed in the United States. Mardi Gras is a traditional Catholic holiday, celebrated with American flair in the city of New Orleans with Dixieland marching bands and Cajun rhythms. Many Americans celebrate Ireland's patron saint, Patrick, with lavish parades and the wearing of green. Easter, a Christian holiday, is often celebrated in the United States with egg hunts and the appearance of the Easter Bunny. Halloween festivities often include carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating. Uniquely American festivals include the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and President's Day. This well-organized, concisely written book will fit nicely into social studies curricula that emphasis cultures, diversity and traditions. Book includes activities popular during certain festivals such as making valentines, wreaths, and pumpkin pie. Glossary and index will assist young students in report writing. Reviewer: Jody Little
- Heather N. Kolich
The cover of this "Welcome to My Country" selection features a brightly costumed Native American child rather than a more representative kid-next-door. George Washington gets one sentence; Hollywood gets a full page. In fact, the motion picture industry and food are the only aspects of U.S. history and culture that receive a full page of attention. The authors whip from the Pleistocene era to America's first president in two paragraphs. The first two pages of the "People and Lifestyle" chapter present photos of recent immigrants, including a two-thirds page photograph of an immigrant protest march featuring Mexican flags and contentious signs. The accompanying paragraph incongruously touts assimilation. Other chapters cover Language, Arts, and Leisure Time. A very brief chapter skims U.S. government and economy. While there are some gorgeous photographs of U.S. landscapes, the photo selection collectively gives the impression of a racially segregated population that is divided between urban dwellers and those who live in tents in the wilderness. There is no view from the suburbs or the heartland. Children rarely appear in the abundant illustrations, and only on the disingenuous cover is a child the feature focus. American inventiveness, independence, perseverance, and equality among all citizens are ignored. In addition to the usual glossary, index, and sources for more information, back matter includes a map of the United States and some "Quick Facts" on U.S. population, size in square miles, and state names. Reviewer: Heather N. Kolich
Product dimensions: 8.06 (w) x 10.04 (h) x 0.34 (d)
Meet the Author
A former nurse with a caretaker's eye for the details of needing and being needed, Elizabeth Berg doesn't shy from the "women's writer" association. She writes with humor and sympathy about the small earthquakes upending women's lives and their extraordinary, human ways of setting things right again.
Elizabeth Berg made her mark as a promising writer with the publication of her first novel, Durable Goods (1993), the story of Katie, a 12-year-old girl reeling from her mother's death while her abusive father drags her from town to town. The book, like Katie, was tough but tender, and the American Library Association named it a Best Book of the Year.
Since then, Berg has written subsequent novels, most of them, like Durable Goods, sincere, unpretentious, somewhat sentimental, and focused on an event that changes a woman's life. In Joy School (1997), a continuation of Katie's story, the crucible is her first taste of romance; in What We Keep (1998), it's a girl's abandonment by her mother; in Until the Real Thing Comes Along (1999), it's a woman's love for a gay man. All are grounded in the realistic minutiae of family life: irksome marriages, tempestuous parent-child relationships, love, betrayal, and resolution.
Although her books have received mixed reviews from critics, Berg remains immensely popular with readers who appreciate her fine powers of observation and honest descriptions. Her command of authentic details is on best display in her medically-themed titles. Before she became a full-time writer, Berg was a registered nurse, where she accumulated an endless store of observations related to sickness, healing, and the emotional toll that health crises take on people. In Range of Motion, Berg wrote about the experience of a comatose man; in Talk Before Sleep, about a nurse caring for a good friend who is succumbing to cancer; in Never Change, about a nurse treating an incurably ill man who also happens to have been a childhood acquaintance.
Although Berg's plots can occasionally be predictable, equally predictable is her taut, intelligent foray into the forces that shape ordinary people's lives -- especially women's lives -- and her exploration of the infinite resilience of the human spirit.
Good To Know
Berg had an experience she used for the straight-gay relationship in Until the Real Thing Comes Along: Her college love later came out to her after the two had broken up. The character of Ethan is modeled on that college boyfriend.
Berg hasn't managed to get her way when it comes to titling her books, usually getting overruled by her agent and editor. She wanted to call Durable GoodsThe King of Wands, after a tarot card; Range of Motion would have been Telling Songs; and Open House would have been The Hotel Meatloaf. Perhaps Berg should be thankful for her handlers?
Durable Goods was never meant to have a sequel, Berg says in a publisher's interview, but she ended up writing Joy School (and later True to Form) because she missed the original characters. Berg explains: "There was just a time when I was lying in the bathtub, and I thought about Katie, and I got out of the bathtub and started writing about her to see what she was up to."