There aren’t many books available for children whose families don’t celebrate Christmas, or at the least Hannukah. Children in families who believe differently are often at a loss as to how they fit in with the nonconscious religious ideology which surrounds us.
A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg tries to bridge that gap. Jenny, the daughter of two free-thinking scientists who don’t adhere to any religious beliefs, finds herself in a new position one year when her family is in the States during the holidays. She notices the differences between those families celebrating and hers and feels at a loss.
An understanding teacher suggests that her family may be interested in learning about the Solstice and celebrating in a secular way. She presents the idea to her parents and the family decides to do just that.
The book is not without problems, the least of which are Heidi Schwabacher’s illustrations. The colorful front cover is in complete contrast to the black and white pencil drawings which range from simple to disproportionate. The over-simplification of her parents decision regarding religion is almost laughable, as the majority of individuals who decide that they cannot celebrate a religious holiday in a secular manner do so out of a strong sense of honesty and authenticity.
However, due to the lack of children’s literature in this area, the book does have merit. It holds appeal not only to atheist families but to other minority families for its discussion of unity and focus on finding something that works for each family, and I would recommend to any of those families to at least check it out.