Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Kwanzaa Books to brighten your holidays!

I’ve finally got some of my Kwanzaa holds coming in, so this is a short first post for the season, but I’ve got more on the way! Let’s enjoy a couple of books celebrating Kwanzaa, its message of togetherness and peace, and its seven guiding principles.

The Sound of Kwanzaa, by Dimitrea Tokunbo/Illustrated by Lisa Cohen, (Oct. 2009, Scholastic Press), $16.99, ISBN:  978-0-545-01865-4

Ages 3-7

What a wonderful way to welcome the holiday: The Sound of Kwanzaa invites readers to “come close, gather round. Listen to the sound of Kwanzaa” on each page, by introducing the different ways families gather to celebrate the principles of Kwanzaa: “loving words and greeting family” celebrate Umoja (unity); working hands and ancient stories herald Kujichagulia (self-determination); banging hammers and sweeping brooms usher in Ujima (collective work and responsibility); laughter and chants from shoppers and merchants alike announce Ujamaa (cooperative economies); the sounds of sharing dreams and goal-setting get readers ready for Nia (purpose); the rhythm of beating drums and singing voices praise Kuuma (creativity), and the harmony of praying voices and calls of Harambee signal Imani (faith), the concluding principle. Every verse speaks to a night celebrated, providing an example of the sounds, the principle, and the color candle added to the Kinara.

The verse moves through each spread, with the repetitive opening phrase gently encouraging a family or close group reading. Lisa Cohen’s bright illustrations celebrate families and communities working and celebrating together, in barber shops and grocery stores, creating art and singing praises together. Purple endpapers with silhouettes create a feeling of celebration and kinship. In an author’s note, Dimitrea Tokunbo talks about meeting Dr. Maulana Karenga, who began the celebration of Kwanzaa, in 1966, and remembers the “No-Cook Kwanzaa Brownie Bites” created to share at a karamu feast. There’s a recipe, too, perfect to make with the kids and share at your own feast.

Add this one to your holiday collections, and if you can find a copy – it seems to be hard to find a new one, which makes me sad – add this to your gift list.


Santa’s Kwanzaa, by Garen Eileen Thomas/Illustrated by Guy Francis, (Sept. 2009, Jump at the Sun), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7868-5166-9

Ages 3-7

Santa’s Christmas Eve shift is over, and now the fun begins! Every present’s been placed, all the cookies indulged, and now, Santa heads home to the North Pole where his elves and Mrs. Claus gather to give him gifts: It’s Kwanzaa at the North Pole! Santa takes off his hat to reveal white dreadlocks, and relaxes into his chair as a banner proclaims “Welcome Home, Santa Kwaz!” and Mrs. Claus spreads a comfy kente wrap for him to snuggle in. His seven elves – each named for a Kwanzaa principle – present him with gifts of their own, and gather ’round the table for a tasty feast. Santa bundles everyone back into the sleigh for one last trip, where Santa lights up the sky with Kwanzaa wishes for all.

This is a cute intersection of Christmas and Kwanzaa, told in familiar, comforting rhyme that begins, “‘Twas the night before Christmas. The very last hour”, following Santa on those last few stops before heading home, ushering readers right into the end of one holiday and the beginning of another (Kwanzaa begins Dec. 26, the day after Christmas). Guy Francis’ artwork is engaging and charming, and evokes warmth with his images of Santa getting some pampering for a change: he sits in a comfy chair, soaking his feet, surrounded by his elves and Mrs. Claus in one spread; in another, the elves surround him with hugs and gifts. Children of diverse backgrounds watch his peaceful message unfurl across the skies at the story’s end. Back matter invites readers to celebrate Kwanzaa “just like the Kwazes” and introduces each elf, named after a Kwanzaa principle and exhibits personality traits similar to each one: Umoja’s pride, for instance, unites the family, while Ujamaa cooperates and trades fairly. The cover is equally eye-catching, with Santa’s iconic red and white coat, black belt, and gold buckle are framed by a pair of kente cloth mittens.

Santa’s Kwanzaa is a fun holiday read, perfect for storytimes.

Find Kwanzaa coloring pages and activities at Crayola and DLTK-Kids. Scholastic has a lovely Kwanzaa wreath project, and has some adorable Kwanzaa craft suggestions for kids.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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