Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly, published in 2006, is a book that attempts to raise awareness of spiritual diversity within families and faith traditions. The book views different religious traditions through a universal lens, exploring faiths like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Rotner and Kelley accomplish this by beginning the book showing children participating in everyday activities like going to school, working, and playing, then shifting into separate traditions that show how these faith-based practices are connected through the global ideas of stories, music, and symbols.
Instead of using the traditional mode of illustrations to show examples of diverse religious and cultural families, Many Ways depicts these ideas through photography. This can be viewed positively, as it demonstrates to readers that a wide variety of religious practices are being celebrated and enjoyed by real children around the world. Children of many religions can read this book and see their own spiritual practices while learning that other children with religions different than their own share fundamental similarities.
A drawback to the photographs is that they tend to take on a scrapbook-like affect, with a quality that makes them feel outdated. Each picture has a caption explaining its religious significance, but those captions are listed at the end of the book, so the reader is forced to flip back and forth to read the captions of a photo that catches his/her eye. For me, this was a hindrance, but for those who enjoy seeing the book as more holistic and global in its literature, then not separating the photos with labels would feel natural.
Parents/guardians and spiritual leaders can use this book to show the children in their lives how religious practices come together on a humanistic level to celebrate life and “enjoy the beauty of this world.” The last page of the book also gives helpful reading suggestions for readers who are looking for more material.
Book Reviewer: Erin Koehler
Recommendation: Recommended Ages 3-6