Picture Books for Kwanzaa

| December 17, 2010 | 3 Comments

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 17, 2010

There appears to be quite slim pickings when it comes to children’s books that relate to Kwanzaa—did you hear that children’s book authors? However, there are definitely enough to satisfy the needs of anyone looking to teach the history, meaning, and/or spirit of Kwanzaa.

My First Kwanza Book

by Deborah Chocolate (Author), Cal Massey (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 1, 1999)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: During the last week of December, Kwanzaa is a time to dress up in African clothes and gather together with relatives from all over the country. Grandma brings special things to eat, Grandpa lights the candles, and everyone in the family celebrates their heritage.

Note: Told through the story of a boy, this book offers a great introduction to Kwanzaa and its festivities. Brief explanations of the seven principles of Kwanzaa can be found at the back of the book, along with a glossary of words used during this season.

Add this book to your collection: My First Kwanza Book

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

by Angela Shelf Medearis (Author), Daniel Minter (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 40 pages

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (September 1, 2000)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars.

Note: This book captures the spirit of Kwanzaa by using the seven principles of Kwanzaa to tell the story of a family who work together to better their whole community. The woodcut illustrations are sensational.

Add this book to your collection: Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

The Gifts of Kwanzaa

by Synthia Saint James

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (January 1, 1994)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: With bold and colorful paintings and simple, straightforward text, the author explains the Kwanzaa holiday.

Note: The initial introduction on the first page gives a round-up of Kwanzaa, from its beginnings to where it is now celebrated—it’s a good but brief intro before the child narrator steps in to share the informative details of the celebration.

Add this book to your collection: The Gifts of Kwanzaa

All New Crafts for Kwanzaa

by Kathy Ross (Author), Sharon Lane Holm (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 48 pages

Publisher: First Avenue Editions (August 15, 2006)

Source: Library

Note: A collection of projects for Kwanzaa celebrations.

Add this book to your collection: All New Crafts for Kwanzaa

You may also like: My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz, The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, and The Children’s Book of Kwanzaa: A Guide to Celebrating the Holiday by Dolores Johnson

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Category: Ages 4-8, Book Lists, Cultural Wisdom, Picture Books, Seasonal: Holiday Books

About the Contributor ()

The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is powered by Bianca Schulze. Bianca is a freelance writer, bookseller, aspiring author, and mother to two daughters. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, her goal is to grow readers by showcasing useful and inspiring books!

Comments (3)

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  1. hurricanekerrie says:

    My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz is also good for preschoolers. It’s easy enough for preschoolers to follow and not get bored with. I wish writers would make more “fun” Kwanzaa books. A lot of these books are too straightforward and serious in tone.

    • You’re right. There isn’t a huge selection to choose from—and there really should be more fun and vibrant titles added to this holiday genre. I’m sure we’ll see some in the future.

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