What is an Altar?, by Rowan Moss, illustrated by T. S. Lamb
Megalithica Books, 9780995511712, 36 pp., 2016
What is an Altar? by Rowan Moss with illustrations by T. S. Lamb is a very short book about creating altars and their use. Although geared for children, this is a comprehensive book that fully breaks down the basics of why and how people build altars.
This book is thin but well bound. The pages feel very nice on the hands, almost silky, which is great to encourage little readers to pick it up. Children are very tactile and having something that feels so pleasant will encourage them to keep turning the pages.
The book is set up with a few lines of text on one page and a full colour illustration on the next. The text is very brief on each page and uses simple words, making this accessible even for earlier readers to work with. Vocabulary words, such as “altar” and “ancestor,” are marked in green. They are further defined in a glossary located in the back.
The illustrations have a dreamy quality to them, but feature a great deal of diversity. There are children depicted from a variety of races and the pictures show altars for different practices, such as a nature-based altar and a temporary Dia de los Muertos altar.
Despite the fact that there are few words, this book manages to fully cover why you may have an altar, different types of altars, and how to set one up. Although it mentions some common things one may have on an altar, such as deities and candles, it does not at all go into how to set up altars for specific practices.
I actually found this to be a strong point in this book. The lack of specifics makes it a good general read for children who are coming from a variety of backgrounds and are being raised in different practices. The book did not put any importance on one type of altar and instead treated them all as special and important.
The one thing the book did stress is that everyone’s altar is a sacred place and shouldn’t be touched unless permission is given. That is very important for young readers to understand and it is relayed in a friendly and accessible way.
The end of the book contains a small activity on making your own altar. It puts together the information that was learned throughout the book and provides minor information as to what you may include but again, the text supports individual choice.
What is an Altar? by Rowan Moss is a very thorough book that children can read with a parent or on their own. It would be a great addition to any young library to help kids find their own way, or simply understand why a parent does what they do. Though this book is short, it is a clear and useful resource for any spiritual household.
Image credit: Inner Journey Events