Hope’s Reviews: “I’m Learning About Other Cultures!”

by On June 27, 2013 in Childrens Books, General, Reading

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Hope had so much fun offering book reviews to Bookboard readers awhile back that she IMG_0831thought she’d do it again!

This time her focus is on two books in the Bookboard library that helped her learn about other cultures:

Sack Full of Feathers?(Debb Waldman, Cindy Revell) and Secret of the Dance (Andrea Spalding, Alfred Snow).

Both?titles are from Orca Book Publishers. Some background notes for each book are offered below, but Hope will tell you what you really want to know.


Hope’s review #1: A Sack Full of Feathers?(“4 stars…wait, no, 5 stars!”)

This book teaches kids a good lesson about gossiping. That’s when you tell stories about other people. Like when that boy Yankel gossiped about the baker accidentally putting salt instead of sugar into that sweet bread. So people might hear that gossip story and not buy the bread! That would be bad.

Yankel is an interesting name, huh? I didn’t get why they sometimes called him Yankeleh. Mommy said its a loving way to say his name in Jewish culture. I learned about the bread called “rugelach” – it’s not that hard to say! I didn’t know the word sack full of feathers“rabbi.” I think it is a little bit of a complicated story because so many characters have names that sound like other names.

I didn’t understand at first why the rabbi made Yankel put feathers on people’s doorsteps, but then later I understood: his gossip spread all around like the feathers. Now he can’t get the words back!

I wondered why the rabbi only told the kids not to gossip, but not the grown-ups. I think they gossip too.


Hope’s Review #2: ?Secret of the Dance?(“5 stars for sure!”)

I love this book!? Kids can learn about different culture ceremonies like the Potlatch. I learned that the native people wanted to keep doing their thing, so they did it in privacy. They had a ceremony with masks and refreshments and they danced in their costumes.

The little boy, the son, told the story. He snuck into the Potlatch ceremony and hid in the secret of the danceshadows and it was the only time he ever saw his dad dance.

They went on a boat to the secret island to have their Potlatch ceremony.? The boy was worried they would be stopped and get in trouble with the law, but they weren’t found. It’s kind of scary, but nothing bad happened at the end.

My daddy still has trouble with the Indian words, like he’ll say “bokahnanadah”…I can’t even say how he says it, it’s just wrong!? Oh, and doesn’t ‘Potlatch’ sound like ‘potluck’ where you bring food to work or school?

Anyway, I love this book! I’ve read it six times, so read it you guys!


Background notes:?

  • Sack Full of Feathers is a retelling of a traditional Jewish folktale. Normally told with an older yenta as the main character, this version tells the story through the eyes of Yankel, a boy who hears and sees partial interactions among shetl residents, then runs to tell friends the incomplete stories. A rabbi uses a sack of feathers to teach Yankel that “gossip spreads like feathers in the wind” and can be hurtful.
  • Secret of the Dance?is based on an incident from author Scow’s childhood in the 1930s, when Canadian aboriginals secretly held traditional Potlatch* ceremonies in defiance of an 1885 Canadian law. This put them at risk of losing ceremonial artifacts and even their children, as well as imprisonment. Scow’s grandfather was imprisoned for defying this law. [*”Potlatch” has been defined as the “ceremonial distribution of property and gifts practiced among the American Indians of the Northwest Pacific coast, particularly the Kwakiutl.”]


Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.


  1. Debby Waldman

    July 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Hope,
    I loved your review of my book! I’m glad you liked the story. I’m sorry you were confused about the names. It hadn’t occurred to me that they sounded alike, but I guess that’s because they’re names I’m familiar with, so they all sound different to me.

    You’re right that grownups gossip, too. I confess: I do, sometimes, and then I get mad at myself. Part of the reason I wrote this book was to remind myself not to gossip. But I wanted to write the book for kids, which is why I made the main character (the gossip) a kid. Maybe someday I will write a version for adults, with adult characters. (Maybe that will help me break the habit once and for all.)

    Keep reading! Reading is the best.

    Debby Waldman

  2. Diana Dull Akers

    July 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

    (typed by Hope’s mom):

    Dear Ms. Waldman,
    Aaahhhh! I’m so excited that you wrote me! What is it like writing books? I’m still working on writing a Powergirl book with my mom, and yes, it has pictures. She’s a pretend super hero that I made up.

    Oh, sometimes I gossip too! And then I get sorry for gossiping.

    Thank you again for writing me. I’m still excited!
    Your friend,

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