Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Kwanzaa Books made the holidays bright!

My holds are in! I’ve got Kwanzaa books for everyone! (Okay, for kids. But that’s the most important audience here, right?) Let’s start the fun.

K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book, by Juwanda G. Ford/Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, (Nov. 1997, Scholastic), $10.95, ISBN: 0-590-92200-9

Ages 3-7

This holiday abcedary starts off with a history of the Kwanzaa holiday and the seven Kwanzaa principles, then journeys into the alphabetic aspects of Kwanzaa. Using English and non-English words, readers learn a Kwanzaa vocabulary, from Africa to Zawadi. There are phonetic pronunciations for all African words, which is a huge help for readers just learning about Kwanzaa and its icons, and Juwanda G. Ford explains each aspect of the holiday simply and fully enough for a child to understand, appreciate, and learn: the mkeka is a special mat used when setting a Kwanzaa table, and mazao are the fruits and vegetables symbolizing the harvest, set on the mkeka; neighborhoods are part of the Kwanzaa celebration, promoting community, working together, and respecting where we live, to make the world a better place. Gele, the cloth that African and African-American use as a headwrap, shows pride in African heritage, as does Jewelry, which also allows families to practice the creativity principle, Kuumba.

Ken Wilson-Max’s illustrations are lovely, featuring African-American families and African icons, instilling a pride in the beauty of African heritage. His illustrations are boldly outlined and feature bright colors, appealing to little eyes. Each letter and its corresponding word are emphasized with bold, black font that let the words pop off the page. The alphabet

K is for Kwanzaa lets kids learn about the holiday from A to Z, and is an enduring holiday book. It’s a strong introduction to Kwanzaa, and to African heritage.

 

It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Kwanzaa!, by Rex Perry, (Sept. 2004, Jump at the Sun), $3.50, ISBN: 0-7868-0924-8

If the holiday standard, “It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas” is stuck in your head as you read this Kwanzaa carol, don’t worry – I found myself reading along with a similar cadence, adjusting for some of the text. Families together, snow falling, and the repetitive phrase, “It’s beginning to look at lot like Kwanzaa!” invites readers to join this book’s family as they prepare for the holiday. The family wears Kwanzaa colors and kente, share food, and gifts, and touch on all of the holiday principles in the text. As Kwanzaa’s end nears, the family reflects on the holiday and the promises made for the year, and looks forward to the new year.

The artwork is bright, with bold outlines and warm colors that draws readers right into the story. Family members hold and dance with one another, having fun and showing affection, making the warmth contagious. You’ll want to cuddle your little ones as you read this rhyming story, guaranteed. The story focuses less on the facts and iconography – although they are present and alluded to in the text – and more on the family and togetherness theme of the season. A nice add to your holiday sections.

 

 

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and Her Kittens, by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy/Illustrated by Valeria Docampo, Translated by Joe Hayes & Sharon Franco, (Feb. 2007, Alfaguara), $11.95, ISBN: 9781598201352

Ages 4-8

It’s time to come together and celebrate Kwanzaa, but wait! Boots the Cat is missing! A young boy and his family pull together and put the principles of Kwanzaa to work as they spend each day searching for the cat – with a sweet surprise on the last day.

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and Her Kittens is half fiction, half non-fiction. The first half is the story of Boots and her family. The family dresses in African garb and have African decorations, including drums and masks, displayed in their home. The colors are warm and earthy. A page-a-day calendar and family members holding scroll with the day’s principles teach readers about each day’s principle and message.

The non-fiction section of the book uses photos and artwork to provide information about Kwanzaa, its place in African-American family homes, and how different families celebrate.

The combination of fiction and non-fiction in one spot makes this a good addition to your holiday shelves. It’s hard to find now, but check your local libraries for a copy!

 

A Kwanzaa Miracle, by Sharon Shavers Gayle/Illustrated by Frank Norfleet, (Sept. 1996, Troll Communications), $3.50, ISBN: 0-8167-4182-4

Ages 5-9

This touching story is all about families. Ashley and Darryl Parker are siblings who are excited for the holidays; their parents are on the planning committee for their building’s Kwanzaa celebration, but their grumpy neighbor, Mrs. Parker, doesn’t seem to be interested in anything other than snapping at the kids. When Ashley and Darryl have a snowball fight and hit Mrs. Parker’s window, they expect to feel her full fury – and discover that their neighbor is a kind, loving person. With this new development, they work with the families on the planning committee to honor Mrs. Parker and reunite her with her sister.

This is a loving, kind story that will touch any reader. It busts that “mean old neighbor” trope and reminds kids – and adults! – that everyone has their own challenges. Darryl and Ashley are good kids who build a bridge between their neighbor, their building (community), and her sister. It’s a great story, and the oil painted artwork by Frank Norfleet gives us realistic characters and settings, with warm colors and expressive, kind faces and body language. The principles of Kwanzaa, explained in the back matter, are communicated through the characters’ actions, opening up the chance to discuss with your readers, and see if they can find examples of each.

I wish this was still in print! It’s such a wonderful book – check your local libraries, and third party sellers have some available.

 

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz, (Nov. 2003, Square Fish), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250050465

Ages 3-6

Karen Katz brings her adorable collage and mixed-media artwork to this adorable celebration of Kwanzaa. The text is spare but informative, speaking directly to children about each day of Kwanzaa, and how our protagonist – a young African-American girl – celebrates it. Phonetic pronunciation of the principles and and terms help introduce new vocabulary, and each explanation is empowering, offering ways for kids to take part in the celebration. From asking her mother to braid her hair “in a fancy African way” on the second day of Kwanzaa (kujichagulia – self-determination) and feeling pride in her heritage, to dreaming of being an African dancer like her Aunt Tasha on the fifth day (nia – purpose), to painting clay pots and weaving baskets on the sixth day (kuumba – creativity), there’s something for every child to take to heart.

Karen Katz’s illustrations are precious. Her characters have round, sweet faces with gentle expressions. They all wear bright colors and have braided, beaded, and natural hair. A kinara appears on every spread, another candle lit, to visually represent the days of Kwanzaa. Holiday cuteness for littles and bigger kids alike.

 

 

So that’s my Kwanzaa book wrap-up! What have I learned from this year and last year’s roundups? That we need more Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books: published more frequently, in greater volume, and that stay in print longer. How can we make that happen next year?

 

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 SheKnows.com has some adorable Kwanzaa craft suggestions for kids.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Kwanzaa books for the holidays!

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!

 

Kevin’s Kwanzaa, by Lisa Bullard/Illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo,
(Oct. 2012, Millbrook Press), $25.32, ISBN: 9780761350750
Good for readers 4-8

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 Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis/Illustrated by Daniel Minter,
(2000, Albert Whitman & Company),  $15.95, ISBN: 9780807573150
Good for readers 6-10

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’s Kwanzaa, by Donna L. Washington/Illustrated by Shane W. Evans,
(Sept. 2010, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780060728168
Good for readers 6-8

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!