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Book Review: This is the Feast by Diane Z. Shore

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Opening with images of the Mayflower sailing across the ocean, This is the Feast guides young readers through the arrival of the Pilgrims in America and culminates with the first Thanksgiving. Simple rhyming text paired with light-filled illustrations brings the history of this time-honoured tradition to life.

Written for 4 – 8-year-olds, Diane Shore’s text avoids delving into graphic depictions of the hardships the Pilgrims experienced during their voyage and consequent arrival in America. Nor does she gloss over them, providing simple explanations of the difficulties and trials facing the Pilgrims.

As an experienced children's author and frequent presenter in schools, Shore is well acquainted with the words that create satisfaction in the young heart. Her text is rhythmic and features repetitive elements. Nearly every rhyming couplet begins with the words “This is…” or “These are…”.

After three such couplets are written, Shore gathers three sets of couplets, starts with her traditional opening in the first couplet only, and closes with a cry of praise to God. Repetitive structures produce some of the strongest children’s literature. Rhythm and rhyme feed the child’s mind and satisfy the soul, This is the Feast excels in both.

Megan Lloyd provides a superb compliment to the text with magnificent illustrations that are full of saturated colours and texture. She successfully uses light to create emotional tension throughout the story the illustrations accompany.

The opening picture of the Mayflower on the sea is striking; the play of colours on the water and in the sky makes my heart soar. Her use of layering creates activity in the scenes and she absolutely excels in her detailed depictions of livestock and agriculture. The combination of her talent with Shore’s words seals the deal on this title, raising my estimation of their work from good to superb.

Many children’s books fall short of historical accuracy and consistency in their illustrations but This is the Feast is far above such shoddy workmanship. For example, no forks are shown in eating scenes, only the occasional spoon.

Upon first glance readers might be suspect of the shades chosen for clothing colours. Didn’t the Pilgrims wear only black? This pervasive myth is historically inaccurate; the Pilgrims wore a variety of colours, though likely not as bright as our clothing due to the vegetable dyes used. To enhance the moods presented the dresses in dark colours are reserved for scenes depicting hardship and travail, while vibrant, jewel-like tones are used in scenes of rejoicing. Some of the colours are perhaps a bit on the bright side, but add to the delicious use of light throughout the illustrations that depict joy and freedom.

Shore makes no efforts to disguise or minimize the strong spiritual drive that sent the Pilgrims to America in their search for the freedom to worship God according to their conscience. What a relief in a post-Christian society that is seeking to secularize much of history. Throughout the text the Pilgrims turn to God for sustenance and praise His name for his providence, beautifully revealing the deeply Christian roots of Thanksgiving.

This is the Feast provides a brief, uplifting read for this season of thankfulness. Once begun it will captivate both the most reluctant of readers and the most fervent. Holding appeal for a much wider age range than it is written for; my two year old and forty-something husband were equally entranced. I can think of no better title with which to accurately and entertainingly introduce the history of Thanksgiving to young children.

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