2016 is the 50th anniversary of the creation of the holiday Kwanzaa. There still aren’t a lot of picture book published about the holiday (Kevin’s Kwanzaa is the only new one in the collection since I last wrote about the topic), so instead I’m going to suggest some titles that go along with the principles of Kwanzaa:
Goal! by Mina Javaherbin
In a dangerous alley in a township in South Africa, the strength and unity which a group of young friends feel while playing soccer keep them safe when a gang of bullies arrives to cause trouble.
I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Presents the popular poem by one of the central figures in the Harlem Renaissance, illustrated with images of Pullman porters and a contemporary child riding the subway.
Some other suggestions for this principle would be Princess Grace or My Friend Maya Loves to Dance (which could both also be used to introduce kente cloth), Thunder Rose (an original tall tale about a girl who starts life by controlling the lightning and picking her own name), or another Langston Hughes poem, My People.
Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
The Hula Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Kameeka yearns to continue her hula hooping competition with her rival, Jamara, rather than help prepare for Miz Adeline’s birthday party, and “the itch” almost ruins the party before a surprise ending.
Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
Destiny’s Gift by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley; illustrated by Adjoa J. Burrowes
Destiny‘s favorite place in the world is Mrs. Wade’s bookstore, so when she finds out it may close she stirs the community to help out, then works on a special gift of her own to encourage Mrs. Wade.
Two more books about this principle are The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore and Uncle Jed’s Barbershop.
Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Pursuing one’s own path in life takes courage, strength, and perseverance, as demonstrated by such inspirational leaders as Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, and Muhammad Ali.
Metal Man by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Paul Hoppe
One hot summer day, a man who makes sculpture out of junk helps a boy create what he sees in his mind’s eye.
Shouting by Joyce Carol Thomas
A colorful salute to faith and gospel music links Black church traditions to the rhythms of Africa.
You might also like a story about a character named Imani, like Imani in the Belly or Imani’s Gift at Kwanzaa.
Never Forgotten by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, is a fable-like book that brings together themes of family unity and creativity. It’s longer than a standard picture book, but beautifully illustrated throughout. A boy and his father are cruelly separated, and the elements Earth, Fire, Water and Wind bring the father news of the son’s fate. In a note at the end, the author writes, “…I have tried to create a story that addresses the question all of us who are descendants of the Taken ask: ‘Were we missed?’ I answer with a resounding ‘Yes! We were never forgotten.'”
If you would like a book that puts Kwanzaa in a context of other holidays celebrated with candles, fireworks, and festive bonfires, try
Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations by Catherine Rondina; illustrated by Jacqui Oakley
Starting with Up Helly Aa in January and finishing with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa in December, you can explore religious and secular festivals around the world.