Begun in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa offers African Americans a way to celebrate their African culture and history. The six day celebration, which begins December 26, emphasizes seven guiding principles: unity, self-determination, responsibility and care for others, cooperation, working to improve communities, creativity, and faith in others. Seven candles, placed in a kinara, serve as symbols of the holiday, in which families can come together over music, food, and adherence to the seven principles. With a table of contents, a one-word glossary, and an index, this book in the "Fiestas" series will serve to introduce readers to both the holiday and traditional parts of a non-fiction book. Questions for parents and teachers to explore with children before and after reading are included on the final page and ensure this book is an appropriate educational choice for school libraries and classrooms. Students engaged in units about holidays, African American history, or character development would all benefit from access to this book. Reviewer: Ramirose I. Attebury
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Each title presents the holiday in a simple and fairly straightforward manner, focusing on basic concepts, practices, and symbols. All of them begin with a question ("What is a holiday?" "What is a festival?") and end with a "Note to Parents and Teachers," which includes topics for discussion both before and after reading. Of the three titles, Kwanzaa is the most successful and Hanukkah presents the most problems. The latter states that the celebration takes place "in winter," which is often untrue since winter begins December 21 and Hanukkah (being based on the lunar calendar) is sometimes over before that date. In addition, the pictures and text make it appear that all nine candles in the menorah are lit each night. An actual explanation of the candle lighting is only found in the notes, which is an unfortunate difference from Kwanzaa, which says "Each day a new candle is lit." A nice inclusion in the notes of Christmas is the suggestion that adults discuss the idea that some of the most appreciated gifts are "gifts of time and love." All in all, these titles might be used successfully as long as an adult is available to discuss the main text, but as stand-alones, they are merely additional.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Rebecca Rissman has written over 100 nonfiction books for young readers about science, math, and history.Her favorite letter in the alphabet is R because when you say it out loud you sound like a pirate!