F The Night Before Christmas in Africa book Review ~ Critique of the Unique

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Night Before Christmas in Africa book Review

Product: The Night Before Christmas in Africa
Author: Jesse, Hannah and Carrol Foster
Illustrator: Jean Christodulou
Published by: Pelican Publishing Company
Category: Books, Children
Price: $16.99

What was on your children's Christmas list? My son asked for: Nintendo DS, basketball and Lego Star Wars. My daughter was a bit more simplified with her list: Barbies, a jumprope and CDs. What do you think children from other cultures ask for during the Christmas season? In the book, The Night Before Christmas in Africa, readers are told the tale of Father Christmas and find out what it is the children in Africa wish for on Christmas day.

Clement C. Moore wrote the story "Twas the Night Before Christmas" over a century ago and it has been a part of our culture ever since its first printing! When Carroll Foster's children (Jesse and Hannah) asked their mom why there wasn't a tale that combined African culture with the holiday season, Carroll did not know the reason, and as a result, they worked together to write The Night Before Christmas in Africa. The book uses the same rhyming song-like structure made famous by Clement C. Moore those many years ago, but the details are slightly different. You see, things in Africa are quite different and as a result, the children wish for completely different items!
From the cover flap:
 "On the arid South African plain, families sleep on floor mats waiting for Father Christmas to arrive with his bag of goodies. However, members of the Shangaan tribe only wsh for simple items such as candy, soccer balls, and chickens during the holiday season. They long for relief from the hot, dry climate, but they dare not bother the man in red with such a large request. When his donkey cart arrives, pulled by kudu and a black rhinoceros, Father Christmas is willing to try."
 This tale shares how the children simply wish for rain and crops to grow to feed their livestock and give some relief from the humid culture. They do not wish for materialistic items nor do they fret if what they need is not provided. Instead, they rejoice for whatever it is Father Christmas may bring, no matter how big or how small! This cherish the simple gifts he brings! It is a story of hope, appreciation and virtue and it is no wonder that O, The Oprah Magazine selected this book as one of its "Favorite Things" in 2005.

When I read this book to my two children, I sat them down in a circle and laid the book flat on the floor between us so that they could see the beautiful illustrations of Jean Chistodoulou, a well-known South African artist, who graces the pages of this book with her artistic talent and eye for detail. The children enjoyed the illustrations very much and we had a wonderful time discussing the differences between Santa Claus and Father Christmas. They loved how Father Christmas wore the traditional duku and sported a long black beard! We learned a mix of African language such as Kulu (pronounced koo-loo) which means Grandfather and GoGo (pronounced go-go) which means Grandmother as well as many other terminology provided in the glossary section. We took turns saying each word aloud as we came across them in the story. We talked about what we seen in the illustrations,  and I explained to the children what the word "'parched" meant in reference to the cattle being thirsty due to the rivers running dry. They knew that a "kudu" was a large African antelope as we had seen them in person on our trip to a drive-thru zoo and it was exciting to them to see them pulling Father Christmas's donkey cart.

This is a wonderful tale that will surely become a tradition to read in your home! It is definitely one that teaches children that there is more to life than materialistic things and I love that it opens their eyes towards how others live. Love love this book and highly recommend!!!

Pelican Publishing Company carries many "Night Before Christmas" tales, including this title and many others, such as:

I think it is so important to teach the children the cultures of others and love this book as it does this and so much more! Also, every book sold supports a child at Sparrow Schools, which strives to assist disadvantaged, learning-disabled children and youth to realize their full potential.

Where to Purchase: Pelican Publishing Company

 (pronounced ee-bah no-kee-see-moo-see oh-moosh-ley)
Translation: Happy Christmas to You!!!


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