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Best Children's Books about Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa Books for Kids: Fiction and Nonfiction


Here are some children's Kwanzaa books I recommend. The seven principles stressed during Kwanzaa emphasize important character traits and many teachers share children's Kwanzaa books with their students. Kwanzaa has increased in popularity every year as more African-American families celebrate the holiday and more children learn about Kwanzaa and its seven principles. Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by educator Dr. Maulana Karenga.

1. Celebrate Kwanzaa

Cover art of Celebrate Kwanzaa, a children's nonfiction picture book
National Geographic Society

Celebrate Kwanzaa: with Candles, Community and the Fruits of the Harvest is part of National Geographic's Holidays Around the World series for children in grades 1-4. Like the other books in the series, Celebrate Kwanzaa is - a nonfiction book illustrated with striking color photographs, designed with a picture book format, includes facts about the holiday, and feature photographs of people in different cities and countries celebrating the holiday, as well as additional resources in the More About... section at the end of the book. (National Geographic Society, 2008. ISBN: 9781426803197) Compare prices. Read my review of Celebrate Kwanzaa.

2. Seven Spools of Thread

Seven Spools of Thread

The story, the striking artwork, and the clever way both are used to illustrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa make Seven Spools of Thread an exceptional children's Kwanzaa picture book for all ages. The author is Angela Shelf Medearis, the popular author of numerous children's books. Daniel Minter's linoleum block prints complement the story, yet stand alone as dramatic pieces of art. (Albert Whitman & Company, 2000. ISBN: 9780807573167) Compare prices.

3. It's Kwanzaa Time!

Cover art of It's Kwanzaa Time children's book about Kwanzaa
Courtesy of PriceGrabber

This book has it all: history, stories, crafts, games, recipes, and songs. It was written by Linda and Clay Goss. The stories, one for each day and principle of Kwanzaa, include illustrations by award-winning artists, including Ashley Bryan, Leo and Diane Dillon, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, and Jerry Pinkney. The stories range from folktales to true stories. (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1995. ISBN: 0399239561) Compare prices.

4. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa cover of children's book

In this 63-page nonfiction book, Andrea Davis Pinkney provides a straightforward account of the celebration of Kwanzaa that provides a good introduction to Kwanzaa for all ages. What sets the book apart are the illustrations by Brian Pinkney. Using scratchboard and oil pastels, the artist provides striking illustrations to accompany the information about the origins and activities of Kwanzaa, illustrating each day with family activities. (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. ISBN: 9780590677264) Compare prices.

5. My First Kwanzaa Book

Cover art for My First Kwanzaa Book

This picture book provides an excellent introduction to how African-American families celebrate Kwanzaa. Deborah M. Newton Chocolate is the author and Cal Massey the illustrator. Told from the viewpoint of a little boy, this is the story of his family's celebration. At the end of the book, the author provides additional information about the holiday. (Scholastic, Inc., 1992. ISBN: 9780439129268) Compare prices.

6. K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book

Cover of K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book

This picture book by Juwanda G. Ford provides a good introduction to Kwanzaa for both younger and older children. With younger children, you can share the colorful illustrations by Ken Wilson-Max and the first sentence for each letter of the alphabet, such as “C is for candle.” Older children will enjoy the full text, which includes information about the symbols, vocabulary, and activities that are a part of Kwanzaa. (Scholastic, Inc., 1997. ISBN: 0439560713) Compare prices.

7. The Gifts of Kwanzaa

Synthia Saint James' artwork, with its bold colors and simple shapes, will immediately engage young children's attention. A young girl's family prepares for, and enjoys, Kwanzaa. Along with an explanation of the family's activities, the author provides examples of what the principles of Kwanzaa mean that even quite young children should be able to understand. (Albert Whitman & Co., 1994. ISBN: 9780807529089) Check your public library for this Kwanzaa book.

8. Crafts for Kwanzaa

This book provides directions for 20 Kwanzaa crafts. Sharon Lane Holm's colorful sketches and Kathy Ross' clear directions make it a joy to use. Included at the beginning of the book is an overview of the holiday. Throughout the book, Ross introduces Swahili words and describes the relationship of the crafts to the celebration of Kwanzaa. (Millbrook Press, Inc., 1994. ISBN: 9780590677196) Your public library may have this book.

9. Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast

The subtitle of this book, Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast, provides an accurate description of its contents. After a description of Kwanzaa's origins, symbols, and principles, there are lots of recipes (breads, soups, main dishes, vegetables, and desserts), illustrated with photographs, a section on crafts, and a glossary. The 64-page book was written by April A. Brady, with artwork by Barbara Knutson and photographs by Robert L. and Diane Wolfe. (Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1995. ISBN: 9780876146330) Look for this book at your public library.

10. The Kwanzaa Contest

It’s nice to see a chapter book that inludes Kwanzaa in the plot. The story, for third grade readers, centers on Ron, who, along with his older sister, decides to enter the local Kwanzaa contest so he can win $50. Ron, who has to cope with a bully at school and a sister who is "Miss Perfect" at home, is good with his hands and decides to carve a soap alligator. The Kwanzaa Contest is the story of the contest and the effect it has on Ron’s relationships. (Hyperion, 1996. ISBN: 9780786823369) This is another book that you'll need to borrow from your public library.

What children's Kwanzaa books do you recommend?

What other children's Kwanzaa books do you recommend? Join our discussion on the About Children's Books Forum.

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