Every Month is a New Year
Every Month is a New Year
Written by Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Susan L. Roth
Published by Lee & Low Books, 2018
The first of January may have already passed, but that doesn’t mean the start of the New Year is over. With the help of this jubilant picturebook by award-winning children’s poet and author Marilyn Singer, the New Year celebrations can extend for months to come. Formatted to open from bottom to top like a calendar, each double-page spread spotlights a unique holiday in a specific country that commemorates a national, cultural, or religious new year holiday across the world during that month. Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration, occurs in April and marks the end of the dry season in Thailand. It is symbolically observed with housecleaning, washing of respected elders, and an uproarious water spraying:
to splash everyone in sight/to be sprayed by elephants,
the people we meet,
to start the new year right,
with a gigantic water fight.
Turning to the month of May, we can read about a child’s observance of the first day of Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar:
Going to the mosque
is as new to him
as the crescent moon.
My brother does not need fireworks
to make his eyes sparkle.
Surrounded by peace and prayer,
he is as bright with this new year,
his is aglow with growing up.
In September, the Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash, is observed with the sharing of daisies:
I will gather a
bouquet to give you on this
shining New Year’s Day.
Give me back a smile.
We will all be kings and queens
Singer’s joyful poetry highlights a first-person account of the celebrations. Roth’s striking, textured illustrations, rendered in collage from vibrant papers across the globe, capture the festive spirit of the holiday. Peritextual additions abound, including an introduction, historical note about calendars, a list of New Year’s greetings in different languages, further information about each New Year’s celebration described in the book, a glossary, and bibliographic resources. A cleverly designed, richly informative, and wholly captivating book, Every Month is a New Year is a fantastic addition to any classroom library.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Grades K and up
- Celebrate Each New Year. Each month, organize a version of the corresponding New Year celebration, being mindful about respecting and celebrating cultural diversity without appropriating it. Invite students to conduct further research about how each of the New Year’s holidays might be celebrated in your school and community. Reach out to local cultural centers that might be able to provide more information, or invite guest speakers and performers to present to your students. Invite families and community members to join the festivities.
- New Year Traditions at Home. How do your students celebrate the New Year at home? Take students through the writing process to describe their individual ways of commemorating the holiday and publish a written piece to share with classmates. Allow them to write in the genre that best showcases their holiday traditions: poetry, informational writing, perhaps a small moment personal narrative about a specific New Year’s event. Teach them oral storytelling and presentation skills, and encourage them to also share their traditions in a live performance or presentation to classmates.
- Types of Calendars. After reading the back matter on the history of calendars, have students conduct further research on the types of calendars mentioned, as well as the different calendars referenced in each month of the book. For example, the Chinese New Year marks the start of a lunar calendar, while Songkran corresponds with a calendar of dry and wet seasons in Thailand. Have students create calendars reflecting these findings (e.g., a lunar calendar). Hang these calendars around the classroom to mark the progression of each throughout the year.
- Illustrating Calendars. Susan L. Roth’s vibrant illustrations are a lively complement to each month’s New Year celebration. Divide your class into small groups to create their own artistic renderings of the monthly occasion. Construct a class calendar with these illustrations, and if possible, publish it online or print copies of it to share with the rest of the school community.
- Holiday Poems. Throughout history, writing and reciting poetry have been popular ways to commemorate a holiday. Analyze the tone and perspective of a variety of holiday poems, including those in Every Month is a New Year. Study examples of figurative language. If you can find any, listen to recordings of holiday poems being read aloud. Watch performed or animated versions of holiday poems. Using what they’ve learned about crafting holiday and presenting holiday poems, have students select a holiday and write a poem for it. When that holiday arrives, include your students’ poetry in the celebration.
- January 1st Around the World. Since January 1 is the start of the New Year recognized by most people around the world, what are the different ways it is celebrated? Share photographs and videos of the festivities (see the links included in Further Explorations) with your students. Have them compare and contrast what they notice about each.
- More About Each Culture. Invite students to reread the poems and back matter, and think about which culture(s) or place(s) in Every Month is a New Year they would like to learn more about. Have students conduct further research about a particular aspect, based on their grade levels. Younger children can perhaps research topics such as other holidays or traditions celebrated, cultural pastimes, music, or art, while older students can delve more deeply into topics such as history or government. Enlist the help of your school or local librarian, as well as any community resources or centers, to guide students’ explorations.
- Marilyn Singer Author Study. With the help of a school or local librarian, gather a collection of Marilyn Singer’s work and biographical information, especially her poetry. What threads of her biography do students see in her work? Read through her texts as a class, noting similarities and differences across the texts’ formats and styles. Take a close look at her writing techniques, noting her word choices and use of figurative language. Examine the topics and perspectives she writes about in her books. Some of her works are listed below in Further Explorations, as well as Marilyn Singer’s website. Compile a list of the writing techniques gained from this author study and invite your students to try out some of these writing craft moves you have discussed in their own writing.
- Susan L. Roth Illustrator Study. Susan L. Roth has provided the illustrations for many children’s books. Gather multiple copies of her books to conduct an illustrator study. Survey Roth’s illustrations, and identify her artistic style, her artistic idiosyncrasies, and favorite artistic media to use. Gather information about her from her websites listed below, your local librarian, the Internet, and as other biographical sources.
Marilyn Singer’s website
Susan L. Roth’s website
In Pictures: New Year 2019 Celebrations around the World – BBC
Top 10 New Year’s Eve Celebrations – National Geographic
New Year’s – The History Channel
New Year’s Eve Around the World – The Travel Channel
New Year’s Traditions from Around the World – The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Holidays: A Sampler from Around the World
Erlbach, A. (2000). Happy New Year everywhere! Ill. by S. L. Holm. Millbrook Press.
Heiligman, D. (2016). Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: With honey, prayers, and the Shofar. National Geographic Children’s Books.
Lin, G. (2008). Bringing in the new year. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Miller, P. (2010). Squirrel’s New Year’s resolution. Ill. by K. Ember. Albert Whitman & Co.
Piernas-Davenport, G. (2007). Shante Keys and the New Year’s peas. Ill. by M. Elridge. Albert Whitman & Co.
Shea, P. D., & Weill, C. (2003). Ten mice for Tet. Ill. by T. Ngoc Trang & P. Viet Dinh. Chronicle Books.
Singer, M. (2016). Echo echo: Reverso poems about Greek myths. New York: Dial. See our Classroom Bookshelf entry here.
Singer, M. (2013). Follow follow: A book of reverso poems. New York: Dial.
Singer, M. (2010). Mirror mirror: A book of reversible verse. New York: Dutton.
Singer, M. (2011). A full moon is rising. Ill. by J. Cairns. New York: Lee & Low. See our Classroom Bookshelf entry here.
Verma, J. N. (2016). Prince of fire: The story of Diwali. Ill. by N. Mistry. Barefoot Books.
Wing, N. (2009). The night before New Year’s. Ill. by A. Wummer. Grosset & Dunlap.
Wong, J. S. (2000). This next New Year. Ill. by Y. Choi. Frances Foster Books.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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