Category Archives: Holidays and Celebrations

Recommended books and activities for holidays and celebrations throughout the year.

Rethinking Columbus Day

In this post, our publicity intern Gina Chung offers some thoughts on reframing the Columbus Day holiday:

Have you ever stopped to think about the implications of celebrating Columbus Day? While most of us probably grew up associating the holiday with classroom rhymes and mnemonic devices (“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” etc.), days off from school, or sales at the mall, it’s important to remember what really happened in October of 1492. Columbus Day occupies a dubious spot in our nation’s calendar, ostensibly commemorating both the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus and the subsequent destruction and enslavement of countless indigenous people.

Check out this video created by Nu Heightz Cinema filmmakers Carlos Germosen and Crystal Whelan in 2009. In order to garner support for a movement to “reconsider Columbus Day,” Germosen and Whelan collaborated with indigenous organizations and community activists, giving voice to the horrific and painful stories behind the mythology of the holiday.

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Lee & Low Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month!

National Hispanic Heritage month occurs each year, from September 15 to October 15. It is a time to celebrate the history and culture of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States along with the contributions they have made to American society.

This specific time of the year was chosen because the U.S government wanted to pay tribute to the Hispanic tradition during a time when many Latin American countries celebrate their independence. September marks the independence anniversaries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and Chile.

Lee & Low Books is proud to have many wonderful titles written and illustrated by Latino/a authors and illustrators. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in your own home, classroom, or library with these favorites:

Gracias - Thanks cover image

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What do Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Celebrate?

Over the summer, our former intern Mitul shared her take on what Ramadan celebrates. Continuing in that tradition, since I’m Jewish I thought I’d share a bit about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If you’re not Jewish, you may have seen these holidays on the calendar – or, if you’re lucky, even gotten off from school for them. But what are they really about?

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year (in Hebrew, it literally means “Head of the Year”) and celebrates the beginning of Apples and honeythe new Hebrew year. Because the Jewish calendar is based on the moon, the actual date of Rosh Hashana varies from year to year, but it always falls somewhere in the fall. For Jews, Rosh Hashana is a holy day, but a happy one: although it’s solemn and most people celebrate it by spending time in synagogue praying, it is a holiday focused on hope for a sweet new year. Because of that, the traditional food associated with Rosh Hashana is apples dipped in honey.

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Happy birthday, Richard Wright

Richard Wright

Author Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908 on a plantation in rural Mississippi. He attended school through the first few weeks of high school before he dropped out to work, but always maintained a deep love of reading. As a black man in the South at that time, he was not allowed to borrow books from the library, so he borrowed the library card of an Irish American co-worker to access books. He later became a respected author of such classics as Native Son and his autobiography, Black Boy. Happy birthday, Richard Wright!

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Happy Birthday, Duke Kahanamoku!

Today is the birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, the first Hawaiian ever to swim in the Olympics. He was born on August 24, 1890 in Honolulu and was an incredible swimmer with a passion for surfboarding. By the end of his twenty-year Olympic career, he was a six-time medal winner! He also introduced the art of surfing to Australia and the east and west coasts of the United States. You can read more about Duke in Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and illustrated by Richard Waldrep.

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Where can you see Bill Traylor’s artwork?

Traylor drawing
Bill Traylor draws on a street corner in a scene from “It Jes’ Happened”

Bill Traylor’s story is the stuff of legend: he was born into slavery in Alabama, lived most of his life as a sharecropper, and started drawing at the age of eighty-five, while living homeless in Montgomery, Alabama. His drawings once decorated a street corner; now he’s known as one of America’s most important folk artists.

You can learn more about Traylor’s life story in our picture book biography, It Jes’ Happened, but there’s nothing like seeing Traylor’s artwork in person. Most of it is concentrated at a few museums in the southeast, but luckily, right now there’s a traveling exhibition making its way around the US with over 60 of Traylor’s works. The paintings, borrowed from permanent collections at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, represent some of the best examples of Traylor’s unique folk art style. Here’s where the exhibit will be:

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Bryce Moore’s Guide to Slovakia, Part II

guest bloggerIn this guest post by Vodník author Bryce Moore, Bryce continues to share his favorite things to see, do, and eat when visiting Slovakia.

What to See

In my last post, I gave a rundown of some of Slovakia’s best castles. But Slovakia’s more than just castles:

Bratislava is the capital of the country. It’s a gorgeous old city, and it’s only 45 minutes away from Vienna–they make excellent cities to tour together. Bratislava has much of the same refined culture that you see in Vienna, but it’s at a fraction of the price. (I once went to the state opera and got box seats for $4. Prices have gone up significantly since then, or course.) Check out the markets in the old square, where craftsmen from around the area come together each day to sell their wares. Great stuff.

Tatra Mountains, Slovakia
Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

Banska Stiavnica is a fascinating old mining city. It’s a drive to get there, but once you arrive, you find a city that’s essentially been left alone for the last few hundred years. (One of the tragedies of many places in Slovakia is that Communists made it a point to tear down or change a lot of the historical landmarks. Banska Stiavnica must not have been deemed important enough to warrant Communist attention.) It’s got mines that are over 700 years old, a series of reservoirs, fantastic old churches–and some of the steepest hills I’ve walked up and down. Bring your hiking shoes! (And make sure to check out the Chateau in St. Anton, a town right next to the city. It’s honestly better than any of the attractions I went to in Vienna. Much more authentic—it really gives you a sense of how the Hapsburgs lived.

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Three Great Books to Celebrate the Olympics

It’s Olympics time! Have you all been glued to your televisions and various electronic devices for the last 5 days? Or, conversely, have you been dodging your televisions and electronic devices, trying to avoid spoilers?

Either way, the Olympics are one of my favorite things. And while it’s tons of fun rooting for all the current big names (Michael Phelps! Kerri Walsh! Gabby Douglas!) it’s also worth spending a few minutes remembering some great Olympic athletes from the past who paved the way. Here are three to start with:

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds1. Sammy Lee (Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds): Diver Sammy Lee was born on August 1, 1920 in Fresno, California. Growing up, Sammy was barred from the public pool six out of seven days of the week because he was not white; despite that, Lee became a world-class diver and at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, became the first Asian American to win a gold medal. There’s a great picture of Sammy Lee, now 91, in this now-and-then piece on athletes from the last London Olympics.

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What does Ramadan celebrate?

from Sharing Our Homeland
from Sharing Our Homeland

Today marks the first day of Ramadan, a month-long celebration for Muslims around the world. Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is a time for prayer, fasting, and self-reflection. According to Islamic tradition, Ramadan is when Allah, God, revealed the first verses of the Qu’ran, the holy book, to the prophet Muhammed.

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One More Sensational Summer Read Aloud!

For the last installment in our series on Sensational Summer Read Alouds, literacy expert Jaclyn DeForge shares one final title that has a high student-interest level, can be used to hit multiple Common Core learning standards, and is super rich in terms of content, just like A Full Moon is Rising and Silent Star.

Balarama: A Royal ElephantToday’s Pick: Balarama: A Royal Elephant

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