Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Kwanzaa

Much like the other December holidays, Kwanzaa has few truly worthy books for me to suggest. There are those that are preachy and/or teachy but few that add a good story to that mix.

Luckily there is a new one this year that is charming, clever, and teaches a great deal about this holiday that is not well understood outside of the African American community. Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington is perfect for young listeners to learn a little bit about the seven principles of Kwanzaa with a sweet text and bright illustrations leading them along. Li'l Rabbit wants Granna Rabbit to be well enough to join in the traditional feast, Karamu, but Mama Rabbit is too worried and Granna is too ill to make it happen. Li'l Rabbit sets out to find a way to cheer everyone and celebrate the way they have in years past. Of course Li'l Rabbit is successful in some joyfully surprising ways. The book includes an explanation of Nguzo Saba--The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa with instructions to look back through the story to find examples of each principle. My group of young listeners who had barely heard of Kwanzaa left the library knowing a little more about the holiday and smiling over a good story.

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis is a somewhat more complex story that springs from an original African folktale. Readers will learn about the Ghanian art of weaving Kente cloth as well as the seven principles of Kwanzaa as they follow this story of a father, a weaver, who asks his sons to make gold from silk tread. They learn to work together while each bringing unique talents to the problem. The story reads like a true folktale and does not get overly preachy. I have had older students come back to request a re-reading of this story and talk about what they learned from it when they first heard it in first or second grade. The illustrations are beautifully lush with lots of red and gold. The book also includes notes about the holidays and some craft ideas.

May your Kwanzaa and the new year be filled with the seven principles of Kwanzaa:
Ujima--Collective Work and Responsibility
Ujamaa--Cooperative Economics

No comments: