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The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice Hardcover – September 22, 2003

34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Shortest Day:

"In a well-thought-out collection of ideas surrounding December 21 and the Winter Solstice, the author leads readers through what happens to the sun and why... Back pages include an interesting and useful variety of ideas, from more facts about the solstice with explanatory diagrams, four projects that teachers, parents, and adults who work with children would find fresh, and two "cooking" activities, one for a human party and one for an avian one."
Children's Literature

"Using clear, concise language, Pfeffer discusses important ideas behind the shortest day of the year, such as the change from autumn to winter as well as the concept of the Earth's tilting away from the sun. The historical view provides a brief look at the days of prehistoric sun worship as well as chronological interpretations of the phenomenon from 5000 to 1000 years ago. Thus, young listeners are exposed to the ideas of ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Incan, and European astronomers and their efforts to explain this scientific wonder. The modern scene of the solstice celebration, though obviously at Christmas, features family, presents, and stockings on the mantle but has no religious overtones. The remaining pages feature more complete "Solstice Facts," four simple experiments, two party suggestions, and a short but up-to-date list for further reading. While appealing to a younger audience, this treatment combines the cultural approach of Ellen Jackson's The Winter Solstice (Millbrook, 1994) and the activities of Sandra Markle's Exploring Winter (Atheneum, 1984; o.p.). Pfeffer uses an easy, comfortable tone for conveying the basic information, and the end pages will provide additional opportunities for would-be astronomers to explore the principles on their own."
School Library Journal

About the Author

Wendy Pfeffer is the author of many science-oriented children's books, including From Tadpole to Frog and A Log's Life, which won the Giverny Award for Best Children's Science Picture Book.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (September 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525469680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525469681
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.4 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wendy Pfeffer has written several other books for children,including From Tadpole to Frog and What's It Like to Be a Fish? both illustrated by Holly Keller. Ms. Pfeffer lives in Pennington, NJ. Holly Keller has illustrated Let's Go Rock Collecting by Roma Gans and You're Aboard Spaceship Earth by Patricia Lauber, as well as her own books starring Horace and Geraldine. Ms. Keller lives in West Redding, CT.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Allison on December 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book after reading reviews here at Amazon and then previewing the book at our local library. I was looking for a picture book for my 6 year old that explains the Winter Solstice as well as the human traditions with which it is associated. This book fits the bill better than anything else I found, and the delightful illustrations are a nice bonus.

It may come as a surprise to many people that a book about Winter holidays does not mention Christmas or Hannukah. However, this book reaches back farther in time to festivals and celebrations based on natural phenomena that occur in the Winter (shorter days, plants losing leaves). These very early celebrations gave rise to many of the customs that we still follow (bringing evergreens into the home, giving gifts, lighting candles). I love the anthropological perspective (I'm trained in this field), and was thrilled to find the suggested activities at the end of the book for children to make simple scientific observations and hold a secular celebration of the Solstice.

This book would make a wonderful classroom resource as well as a read-aloud picture book to read as a family. It may be a bit too easy a read for children at a 2nd grade reading level or higher, but I enjoy the simplicity even as an adult. I also find the secular perspective refreshing. I understand that many Christians believe the only winter holiday of importance is the celebration of Christ's birth, but this book shows how it is possible to celebrate Winter for it's own sake and to recognize why so many festivals are held in winter.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By ardnam VINE VOICE on March 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good piece of children's nonfiction. Provides a brief history of beliefs and enlightenment regarding the winter solstice. Beautifully illustrated throughout. I bought this book to use in my classroom. It has a variety of activities and experiments in the back of the book that reach out to children of all ages. A couple are a little too involved for my second graders but would be great for older children. We enjoyed doing the shadow activity and making the two bird feeders which we hung in the courtyard outside our classroom. I will now look for books on the summer solstice.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By alexxcz on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful info-packed gem about the Winter Solstice. The technical, as well as the historical and spiritual meaning of the event are nicely laid-out. I would recommend this book for Pagan families, secular school teachers and anyone wanting to teach their kids about Solstice. I particularly liked the end section that lists science experiments, as well as celebration ideas for kids to enjoy.

My one critique is that while it is a good book for school-aged kids to read, the text doesn't flow very well for a "read-aloud" book for younger kids.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Ball on December 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has lovely illustrations, but the text and content could have been so much better. It says for ages 4-8, but really I wouldn't recommend it for anyone over 6. It is pretty simplistic, and won't hold the attention of a child much older than that. I wish it had included a lot more detail about the history of the Solstice.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jdunleavey on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I got this book to provide an explanation of Christmas to my toddler which was not religious-based. This book will do that, I think. We'll start reading it now although I don't expect it to sink in until she is a little older. I also got "The Winter Solstice" by Ellen Jackson. Jackson's book is a little darker and scarier, with more of an emphasis on the winter solstice's history of driving away "evil spirits" and even mentions human sacrifice. I'll save that one until my child is much older.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joan on November 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful book that does a good job of explaining about the Winter Solstice. Activities for teaching are provided. Various solstice celebrations throughout time are described.

Couple of issues: The mentioning of celebration of harvests is confusing in that it appears to be connected to the winter solstice when instead harvest celebrations were generally near the autumn equinox. I'm not sure why harvest celebrations are mentioned at all.

And I seriously doubt that people feared that the sun wouldn't shine on them anymore, maybe in an eclipse event that was once in a life time, but really, ever since each individual was born they experienced that the sun came back and spring came and their parent experienced the same and could tell them about it. More likely the celebrations had to do with keeping track of time and celebrating the mystery of the cycle of life and death. I don't get into the quivering ignorant caveman idea. If you study about prehistoric man you will find a sophisticated people.

I do wish they had mentioned how that some burial mound openings are lined up with the rising sun on the solstice, certainly to the renewal of life that would grow in the earth or a mother and be born in the spring.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Barnard on December 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(Review from 9 year old girl, dictated to mom)

A great book! With a great amount of knowledge.

This little book has science and history and is fun. I like this story so much, I want to read it every year while I am a child.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By THAT kid's Mom on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking for a book to address winter solstice (as opposed to traditional organized religions). Pfeffer and Reisch's, The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice delivers. Pfeffer nicely explains some solstice traditions in a simple, yet historical, context and provides some great craft projects for different ages at the end of the book. Reisch's drawings work nicely with the content. Possibly, the prose could flow a bit better; however, the pine cone bird feeder craft made up for this shortcoming with an experience that my two year old loved. I expect the other crafts will work nicely as he grows older. Santa did a good thing when he dropped off this book ;).
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