In The Trees of the Dancing Goats, as Trisha’s family prepares to celebrate Hanukkah, they learn that many of their neighbors have been stricken with the fever. Concerned that their friends might not be able to prepare for and celebrate Christmas, the family is moved to action. Working into the night, they prepare food, candles, and small trees decorated with Grandpa’s hand-carved toys—goats and other animals lovingly created for his grandchildren for Hanukkah. After delivering the Christmas cheer, the giving family rejoices over the miracle of true friendship as they light the last candles of their Hanukkah celebration.
Ask children to think about special celebrations they observe with their families—such as Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa—and what they do to prepare for these celebrations. Have them illustrate some of their activities. Then set the drawings aside to use in the After Reading activity. Introduce the book by telling children that this story is about friends who celebrate the holidays in different ways.
Trisha’s family celebrates Hanukkah, while her friends celebrate Christmas. Compare the customs of the two celebrations. How are they alike? Different? Extend the Before Reading activity by having children illustrate two more pages each—one showing their families during the celebration and the other depicting the end of the celebration. Display each child’s set of pictures on a large chart labeled “Before,” “During,” and “After.” Ask children to use their picture sequences to tell about their family celebrations.
Dancing Goat Decoration (PDF)
To wish their neighbors well, Trisha’s family made sure that a dancing-goat decoration hung on each tree. Invite children to make these dancing goats for family members and friends to whom they want to send holiday wishes. First, have students color and cut out the goat patterns. Ask them to write holiday wishes and the names of the recipients on the back of their goats, then glue designs cut from gift wrap or designs they make to the front of the goats. Help students attach the legs with brass fasteners, then punch holes to add yarn hangers. Encourage children to present their goat ornaments during the holiday season.
In The Trees of the Dancing Goats, the family made latkes. Challenge children to search the following books to find the names and descriptions of other Russian foods: The Keeping Quilt (kulich); Rechenka’s Eggs (kulich and pashka); and Uncle Vova’s Tree (kutya). Then create and prepare your own simple versions of some of these foods. Check for food allergies before serving the foods.