In the world of multicultural books, they often focus on one culture or group. The book, Winter Candle, by Jeron Ashford, does an extraordinary job of combining a wide variety of cultures while looking at winter traditions and the role of the candle.
The premise of the book, as written by Kirkus Reviews, is that on Thanksgiving, Nana Clover realizes that she doesn’t have a candle for her table and asks the super for one. Later, another family doesn’t have a special braided havdalah candle to mark the Jewish Sabbath’s end and borrows the half-used candle from Nana Clover. A few days later, the Ericksons find that one of the candles on their Saint Lucia crown is broken. They ask the Danzigers, and the same little candle continues its trip. The African-American family in 5A celebrating Kwanzaa needs the candle next, because the baby has eaten one of the seven candles for the kinara. Finally, a winter storm causes a power outage, and Nasreen and Faruq, who have just moved in, are concerned that their father won’t find the building. Their mom suggests borrowing a candle from their neighbors, and the stubby piece of wax lights their father’s way. Soon, all the neighbors join in to welcome the new family. The richly textured paintings highlight the glow of the small candle; the family portraits, too, glow with warmth.
What is special is that all of these families live in the same apartment building and not only do they need to share the same lumpy candle when they run out of their normal ones, they consider themselves close enough to their neighbors to ask for assistance. Each time the family borrows the candle from whomever had it last, a child comments about how ugly and frumpy it is or how it isn’t their “normal” candle for the holiday. Even so, the candle always manages to burn a little brighter and seem a little bit more special than the rest of the candles.
This is a great little reminder that no matter what our differences are, we are actually all quite similar. It reminds us all that our lives are meant to be shared and enjoyed together.
An author’s note provides a brief overview of each celebration.