Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Shadow Play and Groundhog Day: Contemplating Candles, Shadows, and the True Light

February is drawing near! The second day of February might be Groundhog Day in the United States, but from ancient times Christians have observed it as a holy day celebrating the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem, 40 days after His birth.

On this day in many Christian churches, we will bless candles and celebrate the Light of the World.

Luke 2:27-32 ...And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: "Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according to Your promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel."
Jesus's Presentation in the Temple with Simeon and Anna
(icon source)

Shadows Aren't Just for Groundhogs! 
In the early days of Christianity in Europe, a folk custom arose that on this day (mid-way through winter, known as Candlemas in the West for the blessing of candles) if a hedgehog came out of its burrow and saw his shadow, he would return because there would be six more weeks of winter. 

Sound familiar? When German immigrants came to America, there weren't any hedgehogs here, so they put forth the test for light and shadow to groundhogs on February 2nd. (Go here for my past post, "Celebrating Groundhog Day with some Famous Hedgehogs.")

Making Beeswax Candles is a fun activity to celebrate Candlemas and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. You can order kits from Bella Luna Toys or Magic Cabin.

Here are some fun books exploring shadows and shadow play, as a fun prelude to Groundhog Day...

Shadow by Suzy Lee - a nearly wordless book. (2010)
An adventure that begins in a cluttered attic with a little girl and the click of a lightbulb.  When you open Shadow, you'll notice the pages are designed with the images on the top page being reflected as upside-down silhouette images on the page below.  The book becomes the attic room itself, as the pictures reveal what the girl sees in reality along with the shadowed fantasies her own shadow-poses inspire. This book is a true "page turner", as your engrossed child will be excited to see what the imaginative little girl will think up next! Ages 4-8

Count! by Agnese Baruzzi. (2012)
Reminiscent of shadow puppet theatre, Count! will help your child to learn to count from one to ten, with dark, lacy silhouettes of creatures such as squirrels, owls, rabbits, and butterflies. Though the pages themselves are sturdy, the die-cut illustrations are very intricate - making this book appropriate for the hands of careful 3-year-olds and up. 

Shadow Play - a partially wordless book - by Paul Fleischman, pictures by Eric Beddows. (1990)
I love Shadow Play, but it's out of print, so you'll have to search for it at your local library.  A boy and a girl buy tickets for a tent show shadow performance of Beauty and the Beast.  But taking into account that appearances are "as thin and deceptive as...shadows", who are the real players?  Read it and find out! Ages 4-8

Step-by-Step Tutorials to Help You Make Your Own Shadow Puppet Theatre...
Make a Cereal Box Shadow Theatre - go here for instructions.

Go here for a fun tutorial for making a Shadow Puppet Theatre - with links to books, templates, and resources about shadow puppets.

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