Continuing along with my multicultural holiday reading, I checked a few Kwanzaa books out this week. Any suggestions for more books I should read? Let me know!
A young boy named Kevin and his family are getting ready to celebrate Kwanzaa! The family gathers around the candeholder – a kinara – and lights a candle each night, explaining the special principle for that night. Through the family’s celebration, readers learn the history of Kwanzaa, the meanings of each of the seven principles of the holiday, and kid-friendly examples of taking those principles to heart: solving problems can be helping keep a room clean; making decorations and gifts for one another, creativity. You can read the story to younger readers, and tweak it for older readers by pointing out the callouts on each spread that provide more information: the history of the celebration and meaning of the word Kwanzaa, the lighting of the candles, ways for families to celebrate together. Instructions on making a Kwanzaa drum provide a fun way to put reading into practice, and a glossary provides definitions for some words that come up in the text. The illustrations are cartoony and colorful; bright reds and pinks, deep blues and greens, communicating the festive mood of the holiday. The family is always shown working and celebrating together. This is a great introduction to Kwanzaa for younger readers.
Seven brothers bicker over everything, day and night. When their father dies, they are charged with a task in order to receive their inheritance: each brother receives a different colored spool of yarn and are told to turn the thread into gold. The brothers work together to find a way to accomplish this, finding ways to brainstorm and complement one another as they form and execute their plan, which creates the woven Kente cloth. It’s a holiday legend that embodies each of the seven Kwanzaa principles and blends the history of the African Kente tribe in with the holiday. The illustrations are beautiful: rich colors, deep ebonies, and stunning woodcut art. This book appears to be out of print, which is a shame; I think this should be considered a holiday classic. It delves into myth and legend and embodies the spirit of the holiday just as much as Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. If you can score a copy of this from your local library, do it; it’s worth the read. If you need a copy for your library, consider buying a gently used copy through a third-party seller. There’s a note about the origin of Kente cloth, and a weaving activity at the end of the book. This is an essential holiday book for your collections.
Li’l Rabbit isn’t having a great Kwanzaa: his grandma, Granna Rabbit, is sick, so no one is able to ready the big Kwanzaa feast, Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows that Granna says Kwanzaa is a special time when everyone helps one another, so he decides he’s going to get her a special Karamu treat, and goes about asking his animal neighbords – orioles, rabbits, groundhogs, frogs, field mice, and squirrels – for different things to make Granna’s Kwanzaa better. The animals don’t know much about what Li’l Rabbit is asking for, but they do know Granna, so they come together to surprise Granna and Li’l Rabbit in the nicest way. It’s a story inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster from African folklore, and beautifully communicates the meaning of the season. The story offers great opportunities to discuss the seven principles and note where they see those principles in action throughout the course of the story; kids can also talk about the ways they can bring the principles to life during the holiday season (and beyond). The seven principles, plus illustrative examples from the text, are also noted at the end of the book, along with a prompt for kids to find other examples in the story. The story is fun, with an emphasis on empathy and community. This is a great storytime book for the holidays, with opportunities to talk with children about intentions that all of the winter holidays – family, community, faith – share.
If you’re looking for my posts on Christmas and Hanukkah books, here’s the place!