During this season of giving, Just Us Books and Marimba Books are happy to share our list of some wonderful multicultural children’s books that we are certain will help make your season bright. There are more than 75 books here including a number published by independent presses. Some are new/recent titles that feature a holiday theme or a theme of peace. (These include books about Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Ramadan and the joys of wintertime.) Others are classics carefully curated and recommended as favorites by our fellow book creator, publisher, librarian and educator friends. A few titles are not seasonal at all and can be enjoyed year round. All of these books, however, are stories that can and should be lovingly shared with children. They are gifts that can be opened over and over again.
Please share this list widely and purchase* books to share with the young people in your life. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this collection. If there are great multicultural titles we missed, please share them in the comments below.
***Titles published by Just Us Books and Marimba Books are marked with an asterisk and may be purchased directly from our online store. We also encourage you to support other indie publishers and bookstores that serve communities of color. AALBC has a good list to get you started.
Thanks to everyone who contributed recommendations for this list: Nikki Grimes, Bernette Ford, Jerry Craft, Ed Spicer, Carol Boston Weatherford, Don Tate, Nancy Tolson, Melodye Benson Rosales, Nathalie Mvondo, Zetta Elliott, Floyd Cooper, Christine Taylor-Butler, Melanie Hope Greenberg, Debbie Reese, Wade Hudson, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Valerie WilsonWesley, Jacqueline Jules, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Johnny Rae Moore, Kelly Starling Lyons, Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Oralia Garza de Cortes, Janet Wong, Satia Orange, Kathy Carter, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Edith Campbell, Katura Hudson and others.
'Twas the Night B'Fore Christmas: An African-American Version by Melodye Benson Rosales
An African-American retelling of Clement Moore's classic holiday poem is complemented by lavish illustrations of an African-American family at the turn of the century. You may purchase this classic directly from the author via email@example.com
Let the Faithful Come by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Charity Russell
This lyrical retelling of the traditional Christmas story serves as a plea for greater compassion and unity in our contemporary world. Peace and goodwill are values celebrated during the holidays, but they should also be applied to the daily struggle of those traveling over land and sea in search of sanctuary. This simple nativity narrative urges readers to recognize the value of every child, and to respect our shared responsibility for all the members of our global community.
Hope’s Gift by Kelly Starling Lyons, Illustrated by Don Tate
During the first Christmas of the Civil War, Hope has to say a heartbreaking goodbye. Her father is running away to help bring freedom to their people. But before he escapes, he gives Hope a special gift to remind her that change is on the way. The battle rages and life gets even tougher for Hope and her family but she clings to the memory of her father’s words and the sound she hears when she listens to her keepsake. Then one day, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. Hope’s spirit soars at the thought of finally being free. She turns to the gift from her father and the gift inside herself to find the strength to wait for the freedom she knows nothing can stop.
***Willimena Rules: 9 Steps to the Best, Worst, Greatest Holiday Ever! by Valerie Wilson Wesley
Christmas and Kwanzaa are right around the corner and Willimena is usually excited about her favorite time of the year. There are fun decorations, yummy food, the seven principles of Kwanzaa and, of course, gifts for both holidays. But this year, no one feels much like celebrating. Aunt Laura lost her job and Dad and Mom say that big changes are coming for the family--changes that mean Willie may not get that bike she wanted. Willie thinks she has it bad until she sees how these big changes are affecting her cousin Teddy. He's usually nice, friendly, and greets Willie with a grin. But lately, he's sad, mad, and downright rude.He doesn't seem to want to celebrate the holidays at all, and nothing Willie does to cheer him up is working. Christmas and Kwanzaa are supposed to be joyful, but this year is turning out to be the worst. Can Willie find a way to bring "happy" back to the holidays?
Hold Christmas in Your Heart compiled by Cheryl Willis Hudson with various authors and illustrators
Christmas means special family times are here - times of merriment, good cheer, and love. Cheryl Willis Hudson has compiled a wonderful book that celebrates this special time through a collecton of traditional African American songs, stories, and poems. Works from legends such as Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, and Nikki Grimes (just to name a few) are perfectly complimented by rich illustrations from a number of renowned illustrators including, George Ford, Cal Massey, and Sylvia Walker.
***Follow-Up Letters to Santa from Kids Who Never Got a Response by Tony Medina, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Every Christmas, millions of children wait impatiently for the arrival of the man in the red suit: Santa Claus. But Christmas is not always a happy time for children who are poor, alone or have to grow up to soon. Poet Tony Medina takes readers into the world of children who are speaking from the heart and want Santa to bring them real answers and practical solutions to the issues that they face daily.
Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Daniel Minter
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.
A Joyful Christmas by James Ransome
Filled with new and beloved poems, stories, songs, and more, here is a beautiful collection of prose and verse that celebrates the Christmas season. You'll find the classics here, such as Silent Night, Deck the Halls, and The Twelve Days of Christmas, as well as new stories by the talents of Pam Munoz Ryan, Joseph Bruchac, Katherine Paterson, Nancy Willard, and others. This evocative treasury depicts the holiday season in all its warmth and glory.
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Stella lives in the segregated South — in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they were never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination.
As Stella's community — her world — is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.
The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
The Ziz, the giant bird from Jewish folklore, learns about the concept of sharing by helping the Maccabees find oil to light the menorah in the Temple, bringing about the miracle of Hanukkah.
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
Celebrate all year long with The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations—156 poems in English and SPANISH.
This latest book in The Poetry Friday Anthology series offers 12 poems per month and 12 poems with the theme of “Birthdays and Baby Days” PLUS “Take 5!” mini-lessons for teaching and sharing skills and standards such as the CCSS and the TEKS. In addition, each poem is linked to a picture book recommendation and other poems in the book for text-to-text connections. Choose your favorite celebrations for each month.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Millo became a world-famous musician at quite a young age. Before fame, however, as Engle’s account attests, there is struggle. Millo longs to play the drums, but in 1930s Cuba, drumming is taboo for girls, “so the drum dream girl / had to keep dreaming / quiet / secret / drumbeat / dreams.” This doesn’t stop Millo; she dares to let her talent soar, playing every type of drum that she can find. Her sisters invite her to join their all-girl band, but their father refuses to allow Millo to play the drums. Eventually, her father softens, connecting her with a music teacher who determines that her talent is strong enough to override the social stigma. The rhythmic text tells Millo’s story and its significance in minimal words, with a lyricism that is sure to engage both young children and older readers. López’s illustrations are every bit as poetic as the narrative, a color-saturated dreamscape that Millo dances within, pounding and tapping her drums. Though it’s not explicit in the text, her mixed Chinese-African-Cuban descent is hinted at in the motifs López includes. Kirkus
There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Dennis Nolan
There was no snow on Christmas Eve. Instead, a desert zephyr blew and palm fronds sang a rustling tune to welcome the awaited birth. There was no snow, no fireplace, no need for woolen caps and gloves on that very first Christmas.
Who Built the Stable? A Nativity Poem Hardcover by Ashley Bryan
Who built the stable where Jesus lay? ... Riding in an open Jeep across the plains of Africa, beloved and nationally acclaimed author and illustrator Ashley Bryan found himself comparing the terrain to Jerusalem, and the bumpy journey to that of Mary’s travel on a donkey. And he came up with a question: Who built the manger where Mary and Joseph found shelter? The answer is conveyed in this beautifully crafted picture book that envisions a young boy, a shepherd and carpenter both who, out of love and kindness, cleared the way for another shepherd and carpenter to be born on Christmas day. The boy looked in the infant’s eyes/ and in his heart he knew the babe/ would be a carpenter/He’d be a shepherd too. Told in gentle rhyme and illustrated with Ashley Bryan’s enormous talent, this is a picture book that captures the reason for the season in all its wonder and beauty. Who Built the Stable? is a celebration of Christmas, of the kindness of children, and of the new hope born with each new baby.
Jackie's Gift by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by EB Lewis
Young Steve Satlow is thrilled when his hero Jackie Robinson moves onto his block. After the famed second baseman invites Steve to a Dodgers game, the two become friends. So when Jackie hears that the Satlows don't have a Christmas tree, he decides to give them one, not realizing the Satlows are Jewish. But Jackie's gift helps these two different families discover how much they have in common.
Written by the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson and illustrated by a Caldecott Honor winner, Jackie's Gift is a holiday tale-based on a true story-about friendship and breaking barriers.
Divali Rose by Vashanti Rahamen, illustrated by Jamel Akib
The meaning of the Hindu "festival of lights" becomes clear to a young boy. Ricki is looking forward to Divali, the Hindu "festival of lights." He's also waiting for two special rosebuds to bloom—buds on the bush his grandfather had planted in the front yard. Grandfather promises that the roses will be the color of Divali, but Ricki can't imagine what color that might be. One morning, Ricki bends one of the rosebuds to get a closer look and accidentally snaps it off. When his grandfather believes the new neighbors have stolen his rosebud, Ricki must summon up the courage to confess what he has done. Set in Trinidad, this moving story reflects the significance of a festival that is celebrated by nearly one billion Hindus worldwide.
The Black Snowman by Phil Mendez, illustrated by Carole Byard
A disillusioned black boy discovers his heritage as well as his own self-worth with the help of a magical snowman made from city slush. An ALA Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field Social Studies.
The Christmas Coat by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Virginia and her brother are never allowed to pick first from the donation boxes at church because their father is the priest, and she is heartbroken when another girl gets the beautiful coat that she covets. Based on the author's memories of life on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.
The Most Precious Gift by Marty Crisp, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Across the great desert the caravan follows the eastern star, in search of the newborn king. And at the rear young Ameer trails sadly behind. What gift, he wonders, can one so poor possibly give? Certainly nothing that might compare with the fine tributes of a merchant, or the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of kings. Not even Ameer’s beloved dog Ra can give him any comfort. But in Bethlehem they find a king like none before. And to everyone’s astonishment, though Ameer has no jewels or marvels to present, his gift of the heart outshines them all. Floyd Cooper’;s glowing artwork captures the quiet brilliance of the first Christmas story with renewed beauty. This unique telling of the Nativity, as experienced through the eyes of a child, will warm the heart with the true spirit of the holiday. (September 2006)
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez
Maria tries on her mother's wedding ring while helping make tamales for a Christmas family get-together. Panic ensues when, hours later, she realizes the ring is missing.
Coyote Christmas by S. D. Nelson
On Christmas Eve, Coyote wants to find some people to trick out of a hot meal. Sneaky Coyote is known in the Native American tradition as the Trickster. He knows that there’s one character people can’t refuse on Christmas Eve: Santa Claus! Using straw for a jolly belly and wool for his Santa’s beard, the Trickster fools a family into welcoming him to their Christmas meal. But just when he thinks he’s gotten away with his ruse, taking their food and leaving the family with nothing, he’s foiled by a strange occurrence. Could it be a Christmas miracle?
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
“Robinson’s simple shapes, bright palette and flat perspective belie a sophisticated use of acrylic and collage. His cityscape is diverse and friendly, without neglecting the grittiness: litter, graffiti, security grilles and a soup kitchen—CJ and Nana’s destination. With this final detail, Last Stop on Market Street provides a gentle twist, letting readers in on the secret Nana and CJ have known all along: They’re on the way to help others who have even less. But it’s also the warmth of their intergenerational relationship that will make this book so satisfying, for both young readers and the adults sharing it with them.”–New York Times
A Native American Night Before Christmas, by Gary Robinson, illustrated by Jesse T. Hummingbird
A Pinata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora and Magaly Morales
An award-winning author and a rising star artist have put a festive Latino twist on "The Twelve Days of Christmas," populating it with piñatas in place of partridges, plus burritos bailando (dancing donkeys),lunitas cantando (singing moons), and much more, all displayed in the most vivid colors imaginable. In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga, whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book's conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story. This joyous fiesta will warm even the coldest of hearts.
Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline Chen
Christmas season is in full swing, and eleven-year-old Peiling Wang can't take another minute of it. She feels completely left out! Her family is from Taiwan, and even though they have been living in America since she was small, they have never once celebrated the biggest holiday of the year. But with encouragement from her groovy uncle, Peiling musters up the courage to ask her parents the big question: Can we celebrate Christmas this year? With such high hopes (and maybe some unrealistic expectations!) it is especially disappointing when things don't turn out quite the way Peiling planned. But there is always a silver lining, and Peiling finds it.
An Angel for Mariqua! by Zetta Elliott
Christmas is coming, but eight-year-old Mariqua Thatcher isn’t looking forward to the holidays. Mama’s gone and Gramma doesn’t know what to do with her feisty granddaughter. Almost every day Mariqua gets into a fight at school, and no one seems to understand how she feels inside. But things start to change when a mysterious street vendor gives Mariqua a beautifully carved angel as a gift. Each night Mariqua whispers in the angel’s ear and soon her wishes start to come true! Mariqua begins to do better at school, and she even wins an important role in the church pageant. But best of all, Mariqua becomes friends with Valina Peterson, a teenager who lives in Mariqua’s building. Valina helps Mariqua learn how to control her anger, and reminds her pretend little sister that “everyone has a story to tell.” Their friendship is tested, however, when Mariqua discovers that Valina has been keeping a secret about her own mother. Can the magic angel make things better?
Latkes And Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story Paperback by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Robin Spowart
A blizzard leaves a peasant family housebound at Hanukkah with the potatoes for latkes buried under the snowdrifts. There are no apples for applesauce, either, since the harvest was poor. But when the family takes in first a stray cat and later a stray dog, the two animals return the favor. On the eighth night of celebration, when the storm finally clears and the nearly starving group ventures out, the dog digs potatoes and the cat mews in the apple tree where apples are miraculously now hanging. Curious children may well ask why the family didn't prepare by digging potatoes before the holiday. Nevertheless, this gentle story is well served by Spowart's earth-toned chalk illustrations that depict the family in rounded shapes with an economy of detail. An end note explains the holiday and gives directions for playing dreidel and an elaborate recipe for latkes. –School Library Journal Oct, 1992
Native American Twelve Days of Christmas, adapted and written by Gary Robinson, illustrations by Jesse T. Hummingbird
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family's poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan's side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis's home -- will he still be his friend?
A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King and Gary Clement
Wily trickster Coyote is having his friends over for a little solstice get-together in the woods when a little girl comes by unexpectedly. She leads the friends through the snowy woods to the mall — a place they had never seen before. The trickster goes crazy with glee as he shops with abandon, only to discover that filling a shopping cart with goodies is not quite the same thing as actually paying for them. The trickster is tricked and goes back to his cabin in the woods — somewhat subdued — though nothing can keep Coyote down for long. Thomas King is known for his fiction featuring Canada's Native people, while Gary Clement's artwork has appeared in several popular children's books. A Coyote Solstice Tale blends King's brilliant deadpan humor and Clement's evocative watercolors in this witty critique of consumerism and consumption aimed at all ages.
***Baby Jesus Like My Brother by Margery Wheeler Brown, illustrated by George Ford
On Christmas Eve, during a trip to watch downtown holiday displays with his sister Keisha, Tony learns the true meaning of Christmas. People are especially friendly. There are smiling faces and warm greetings, songs of joy and words of encouragement. It is a special time made even more special because Tony and Keisha have a new baby brother like the baby Jesus. Through realistic dialogue and magical illustrations, Baby Jesus Like My Brother captures the true meaning of the holiday that always seems to bring people together—the holiday we call Christmas.
Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Don Tate
It's a challenge to transform the "Nutcracker Suite's" romantic orchestra into jumpin' jazz melodies, but that's exactly what Duke Ellington and his collaborator, Billy Strayhorn, did.
Ellington's band memebers were not so sure that a classical ballet could become a cool-cat jazz number. But Duke and Billy, inspired by their travels and by musical styles past and present, infused the composition with Vegas glitz, Hollywood glamour, and even a little New York jazz.
Circle of Wonder by N. Scott Momaday
Circle of Wonder centers upon a world that is so dear to me as to be engraved on my memory forever. I was a boy of twelve when my parents and I moved to Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico in 1946. . . . It was a place of singular beauty and wonder and delight. My first Christmas there was beyond my imagining. . . . The night sky was radiant; the silence was vast and serene. In all the years of my life I have not gone farther into the universe. I have not known better the essence of peace and the sense of eternity. I have come no closer to the understanding of the most holy.
I Love Snow by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Purple Wong
I love snow! spinning, swirling, swooshing snow crunch beneath my boots snow tickling my tongue snow I love snow! This short poem uses rhythm and repetition to describe the fun activities a fresh snowfall permits. Too much snow can sometimes cause problems, and in time it turns to dirty gray slush. But in the end, nothing can diminish a child’s love of snow!
Santa Knows by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Who knows if you've been naughty or nice? Santa knows, that's who! But not everyone believes in Santa Claus. Bah, humbug. Consider Alfie F. Snorklepuss. He thinks he's proven that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Alfie thinks there is no way that Santa could do all the things he's supposed to, like deliver billions of presents all over the world in one night or know what every little kid wants. When Alfie starts spreading the word that there is no Santa Claus, he makes someone very unhappy: his little sister Noelle. And so Noelle turns to the only person who can help her. The one person Alfie thinks doesn't exist: Santa Claus. Ho, ho, ho! In this sweet and funny picture book from husband-wife team Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, with illustrations by Steve Björkman, Alfie gets an attitude adjustment, North Pole-style, from Santa and his elves, and Noelle gets exactly what she wanted for Christmas: a nicer big brother.
My First Kwanzaa Book by Debbie Newton Chocolate, illustrated by Cal Massey
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.
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Come celebrate Kwanzaa!
Every year, for seven days beginning December 26, African Americans celebrate their heritage during the Kwanzaa holiday. In this book, you can find out about that special time so you can celebrate the seven days of Kwanzaa, too.
K is for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
A unique alphabet book for children and a wonderful introduction to Kwanzaa, the holiday that celebrates African American heritage. K is for Kwanzaa explains different facets of the holiday, from A to Z. Each letter of the alphabet represents an English or Swahili word, accompanied by a simple definition explaining its importance or relation to Kwanzaa.
Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Twenty-three holiday offerings from Coretta Scott King Award-winning poet Nikki Grimes showcase many facets of Christmastime. From neighborhood kids who only need an icy patch and trash-can lid to have fun, to a family grate-fully sitting down to holiday dinner with all the trimmings, to Rhythm Brown-the blind sax-man who plays "Silent Night" as if he witnessed the first Christmas in Bethlehem-Nikki Grimes revels in the sights, sounds, and feelings that make the season so special. Kadir Nelson provides the perfect counterpoint to each poem with a radiant, revealing painting.
Christmas Gif’ by Charlemae Rollins and Joseph Rollins, illustrated by Ashley Bryan
The importance of Christmas in African-American life is affirmed in an anthology of poetry and prose by such writers as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, rereleased with forty-five linoleum block illustrations.
Chita’s Christmas Tree by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Christmas is coming! And all Chita can dream about is choosing her very own Christmas tree. "Mama!" Chita calls. "Mama! Is today the day?" "Yes," says Mama. "Papa is almost ready."
My First Ramadan by Karen Katz
Look! There is the new moon in the sky. It's time for Ramadan to begin. Follow along with one young boy as he observes the Muslim holy month with his family. This year, the narrator is finally old enough to fast, and readers of all ages will be interested as he shares his experiences of this special holiday in Islam.
Faith by Maya Ajmera, Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon
Families around the world celebrate faith in many different ways—through praying, singing, learning, helping, caring, and more. With stunning photographs from many cultures and religious traditions, Faith celebrates the ways in which people worship around the globe . Thematically organized back matter gives additional information on common expressions of faith, and a glossary describes particular religions and elements of faith depicted in the book.
Fox & Crow by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Babs Webb
Fox and Crow are old friends who enjoy trying to outsmart one another. One winter evening, mischievous Crow plays a trick that leaves Fox with his head stuck in an empty jar! Instead of helping her friend, Crow flies off to have an adventure in town. Humbled by his embarrassing predicament, Fox must also leave the safety of the forest to search for help. Both creatures know from experience that humans can be wasteful and cruel, but on this special night, Fox and Crow see humans in a new light after they each bring joy to members of a family whose holiday spirit has been dimmed by illness. Inspired by actual events, Fox & Crow: A Christmas Tale is a contemporary take on Aesop’s beloved fable.
The Christmas Gift by Francisco Jiménez, illustrated by Claire B. Cotts
With honesty and grace, award-winning author Francisco Jiménez shares his most poignant Christmas memory in this beautifully illustrated picture book. As Christmas approaches, Panchito can’t wait to see what present he gets. But on Christmas Day, he is disappointed when all he gets is a bag of candy, until he sees the gift his father gives his mother. Panchito then realizes that gifts of the heart are the most precious of all.
***Kids’ Book of Wisdom, compiled by Wade and Cheryl Hudson
Your grandmother's words. Your mom and dad's words. We all seem to know the old sayings, but never stop to think about where they come from-or who said them first. A great collection of quotes from the African diaspora.
Christmas in the Big House by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack
In a poignant, heartwarming book rich in historical detail and careful research, two Coretta Scott King Award-winning authors movingly describe Christmas on a pre-Civil War plantation from two starkly different points of view--the big house and the slave quarters. Magnificent full-color illustrations, along with recipes, poems, songs, journal excerpts, and more add depth and authenticity to this extraordinary book.
The Beatitudes from Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig
Since the earliest days of slavery, African Americans have called on their religious faith in the struggle against oppression. The Beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mountform the backdrop for Weatherford's powerful free-verse poem that traces the journey from slavery to civil rights. (2009)
It's Kwanzaa Time! by Linda Goss and Clay Goss
Available now in paperback is It's Kwanzaa Time!, an entertaining collection of stories, songs, activities, games and recipes that focus on and explain the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperation, purpose, creativity and faith.
The lively text of It's Kwanzaa Time! and the illustrations by award winning artists Jerry Pinkney, Ashley Bryan, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Floyd Cooper, Jonathan Green, and Leo and Diane Dillon bring together the sights, sounds, smells and flavors of Kwanzaa in one volume. It's great fun to read aloud and the whole family can participate together. (September 2002)
Mermaids on Parade by Melanie Hope Greenberg
The Mermaid Parade, a summer solstice ritual to open the beach season at Coney Island, started in 1983 as the revival of an older festival. Greenberg paints detailed—and accurate—layouts of the neighborhood, complete with shops, arcades, the F train to Coney Island, Astroland, and diverse people decked out in their sea-creature finery. She lavishes each joyful spread with upbeat colors and patterns. Skies echo the changing blue tints of the ocean. The minimal story line—a young girl narrates as she marches in the parade with her parents—functions like a tour guide, calling attention to the sights. The wealth of detail turns the pages into a Where's Waldo game: adults and children might challenge each other to locate the three main characters in an amusement-park panorama, or to count the number of pirates dancing on the Boardwalk. This is a fine way to keep the warm sun, sand, and celebration around all year.—Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY
What Do You Know? SNOW! by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Sylvia Walker
What would you do if you woke up one morning and found everything covered with snow? Includes tips for reading with a parent, plus after-reading activities.
Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina, illustrated by Chandra Cox
In this delightfully original Christmas story, our young narrator is thrilled. His favorite holiday is coming, and he looks forward to the presents, a great big tree, and baking a chocolate cake with his grandmother. But soon he starts to wonder: What happens to all the trees that get cut down and don't make it to the next Christmas? And what about all the people "who don't have a place to live or food to eat or presents in a stocking/or under a tree?" His thoughts shift ― maybe he should give his extra presents to kids who don't have any, and give homeless people hats, gloves, and scarves. He realizes that Christmas is really about community, people coming together and helping each other. "Christmas makes me think/about others/and not just me!" His thoughtfulness leads to a magical celebration of the real spirit of Christmas. (November, 2001)
Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Gabriel “paced the halls of heaven” as he memorized God’s message to Mary. He wondered what she would say. The Christmas story unfolds, as never before, through the voices of those who witnessed the Messiah’s birth. Listen to Joseph’s struggle. Rejoice with Elizabeth and Zachariah. Worship with the magi. Hear the fear in Herod’s voice. Receive the blessing of Simeon and Anna. And, like the shepherds, shout for joy!
Snowflake Kisses and Gingerbread Smiles by Toni Trent Parker
What do you think of when you think of Christmas? Christmas trees, Santa’s, reindeer, presents galore, and more are captured in this precious holiday book… features snappy, rhyming text by author Toni Trent Parker that focuses on all of the things young children identify within their Christmas celebration. Photographer Earl Anderson illustrates the text effectively with full-color photographs of the popular Christmas items and adorable African-American children all dressed up for the holidays
Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen
It's Eid, and Aneesa should be happy. But her parents are thousands of miles away for the Hajj pilgrimage. To cheer her up, her grandmother gives her a gift of beautiful clothes, one outfit for each of the three days of Eid. At the prayer hall, Aneesa meets two sisters who are dressed in ill-fitting clothes for the holiday. Aneesa discovers that the girls are refugees. Aneesa can't stop thinking about what Eid must be like for them, and she comes up with a plan to help make it the best Eid holiday.
A Party in Ramadan by Asma Mobin-Uddin
A charming story of a young Muslim girl determined to do the right thing. In this Parents' Choice Award book, Ramadan is coming and Leena is excited. This will be the first year she will fast. Leena is too young to fast each day during the Muslim religious festival, so she decides to fast each Friday instead. Now Leena has a dilemma. She receives an invitation to a party which happens to fall on Friday. Leena doesn't want to miss the party, but she doesn't want to miss fasting either. So Leena decides to go to the party, but not eat or drink. Later, she will join her family for the meal known as iftar, when the daily fast is broken. But when Leena, who is the only Muslim at the party, sees her friends enjoying fresh lemonade and chocolate cake, her stomach starts to growl and her head begins to hurt. Will she keep her Ramadan fast?
'Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish by Roseanne Greenfield Thang, illustrated by Sara Palacios
It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”
The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Johnny Ray Moore, Illustrated by Amy Wummer
This little boardbook uses only approximately 200 words to tell about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to explain, in simple terms, how he ended segregation in America. Parents quite often want to begin to teach their children about important aspects of history and culture even at the earliest of ages. This book is the perfect avenue through which parents can begin teaching their children about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Moore has done a superb job in writing a biography that is short, concise and easy to understand. Even children with the shortest of attention spans can enjoy and understand this book. Friendly illustrations will make this book even more pleasurable for children. The boardbook format of this book makes it easy for children to handle the book and even turn the pages without parents having to worry about the book being damaged. Reviewed by Stacey Seay
Deep in the Sahara by Cunnane, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi
Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman's beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla's mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla's head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.
The Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena Khan, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Yasmeen, a seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl, celebrates the Muslim holidays of Ramadan, "The Night of the Moon" (Chaand Raat), and Eid. With lush illustrations that evoke Islamic art, this beautiful story offers a window into modern Muslim culture—and into the ancient roots from within its traditions have grown.
Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee by Jerdine Nolan, Illustrated by Barry Moser
Ellie has friend called Billie Lee and she is the only person who can see him. Her parents believe that Billie Lee is “just my imagination,” but to Ellie, Billie Lee is as real as the sun and moon. One cold night Ellie wishes on the brightest star in the sky; she wishes that her parents will understand that Billie Lee is real.
"Ornaments," by Patricia and Fred McKissack, Jr.
****This short story one appeared in the Just Us Books anthology, IN PRAISE OF OUR FATHERS & OUR MOTHERS
Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko
Sadie’s family mixes Hanukkah and Christmas traditions by leaving latkes for Santa and putting gelt under the tree. A recipe for cranberry kugel dressing at the back continues the mashup theme. A good choice for readers who celebrate “Chrismukkah.” The various traditions are presented without explanation of their origins. (Picture book, K-Grade 3)
Black Nativity by Langston Hughes (a gospel play)
Langston Hughes’ gospel-music-driven production, Black Nativity, a retelling of the Nativity story, debuted in 1961 and became one of the first plays by an African-American writer to be staged off-Broadway.
Time to Pray by Maha Addasi and illustrated by Ned Gannon
Time to Pray by Maha Addasi and illustrated by Ned Gannon describes Muslim prayer from the perspective of a young girl and her grandmother. My students have very little understanding of Islam and Muslim traditions. (Ed Spicer)
A girl's visit to her grandmother in an unnamed Middle Eastern town introduces her to her spiritual heritage in this visually arresting tale, which subtly addresses the challenges and importance of passing on faith traditions from one generation to the next. English text appears with Arabic translation against a beige wash, opposite earth-toned scenes. During her visit, Yasmin observes her grandmother's devotions, involving ritual ablutions, prayer clothes, and a prayer rug, as well as the way the community's shopkeepers and vendors integrate prayer into their daily lives. An appendix describes the five "Fard prayers" required by Islam. Ages 7–9. (Sept.) Publisher’s Weekly
The Offenders: Saving the World While Serving Detention! by Jerry Craft with Jaylen and Aren Craft, illustrated by Jerry Craft http://jerrycraft.net/products.html
BULLIES BEWARE! A freak accident gives five middle school bullies super powers. But instead of being able to transform into cool super-beings, they are forced to take on the characteristics of the kids they bully. Sure their abilities may be at an all-time high, but do they really have what it takes to save their school when their self-esteem is at an all-time low?
The Plum Tree by Martha A. Blanchard
The Plum Tree is about two friends Pella and Stacia who have big plans for a summer of fun on Helen island. When tragedy strikes, for Pella’s family, her life changes as do her chances for excelling at the Common Entrance Exam and getting into a top Secondary School.Determined not to be separated, the friends must work together to beat the odds and rise to the top of their class.”
Two White Rabbits by Jaime Buitron
One book coming from Groundwood this fall that represents this value of diversity, and which has already received a starred review in School Library Journal, is Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitraigo and illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. The title tells the story of a young girl and her father who immigrate illegally to the U.S. from Mexico. “It’s a book that is going to possibly be very controversial. It’s obviously diverse and given what is happening in the buildup for [the U.S. presidential] election, I think that it is very pertinent and an important subject about all the kids who are migrating legally or illegally,” Howson said. “Groundwood looks for books that speak to kids’ experiences that might not otherwise be published.”
Ramadan Moon by Na'ima Robert, Shirin Adl
Ramadan, the month of fasting, doesn't begin all at once. It begins with a whisper And a prayer And a wish. Muslims all over the world celebrate Ramadan and the joyful days of Eid-ul-Fitr at the end of the month of fasting as the most special time of year. This lyrical and inspiring picture book captures the wonder and joy of this great annual event, from the perspective of a child. Accompanied by Iranian inspired illustrations, the story follows the waxing of the moon from the first new crescent to full moon and waning until Eid is heralded by the first sighting of the second new moon. Written and illustrated by Muslims, this is a book for all children who celebrate Ramadan and those in the wider communities who want to understand why this is such a special experience for Muslims.
The following titles are adapted from 11 African-American Children’s Books for Christmas and Kwanzaa by Karen D. Brame El-Amin
The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
A touching story about the importance of real family, this is a tale set in the American South during the Depression. Seven year-old Nella receives the doll of her dreams, a Baby Betty doll for Christmas, but will it replace the affection she holds for her sisters?
Mim’s Christmas Jam, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
In the Pinkneys' …hands, a tasty family tradition and New York City history make a flavorsome pairing. It's 1915, and Christmas just isn't the same when Pap must be away from Mim and their children while he works to build the New York City subway system. But a jar of Mim's "belly-hum jam" unexpectedly works its own small miracles. Vibrant scratchboard compositions skillfully contrast the dank underground construction site with the warmth of home.
The Little Match Girl Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Taking place in the early 20th century, Mr. Pinkney (who also illustrated The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll) has transformed the 19th century tale of Andersen’s Danish girl, making her of an international culture, thus making her of everyone, for everyone. This classic story reminds us of the true meanings of Christmas—acceptance and love, for all.
Hallelujah: A Christmas Celebration by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Synthia Saint James
This simply told, beautifully illustrated book tells the traditional story of the birth of baby Jesus, featuring an all-Black Nativity. Those fans of Saint James’ art work will surely wish to add this to their collection.
Christmas Soul, as told to Allison Samuels, illustrated by Michele Wood
In this poignant book, Black celebrities, including Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, Monica, Grant Hill, Patti LaBelle, and Denzel Washington, reminisce on their favorite childhood memories of Christmas. Heartwarming and funny (it also includes Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Tucker!), I hope these stories invite you and your loved ones to share your favorite Christmas stories!
Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger
Another piece written by Ford, this fictional work describes Kayla’s apprehension about celebrating Kwanzaa, her favorite holiday of the year, without her brother, Khari, whose return home from school has been blocked by a snowstorm. Will Khari be able to make it home it time to share in Kayla and his family’s festivities before the seven days of Kwanzaa are over?
Kwanzaa: Seven Days of African-American Pride (Finding Out about Holidays)by Carol Gnojewski
This book is filled with wonderful photographs to further emphasize the development and celebrations of Kwanzaa by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Containing a glossary, a craft project and links to various internet sites for greater research to help the reader learn more about the customs and practices of Kwanzaa, this book is a must-have for parents and educators!
Kwanzaa Kids by Joan Holub, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
If the artwork looks familiar, it’s because the artist illustrated K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book. What makes this really cool is that this is a “lift-the-flap” book, encouraging little ones to learn and explore the principles, via the seven days, of Kwanzaa at a very young age!
Kwanzaa Holiday Cookbook (Festive Foods for the Holidays) by Emily Raabe
While this discusses Kwanzaa, this concise book details the importance of food to Kwanzaa celebrations and includes four recipes: Benne Cakes, Kwanzaa Cornbread, Sweet Potato Fritters and Coconut Chicken Chews. It also includes a discussion about the ceremony of Karamu, suggestions on how to celebrate Kwanzaa, a glossary and websites for further research.
Santa’s Kwanzaa by Garen Eileen Thomas, illustrated by Guy Francis
This colorful and imaginative children’s story combines themes of Christmas and Kwanzaa. In this hilarious and moving twist, Santa Claus, finally resting at home from his hectic Christmas Eve activities, is the recipient of gifts from his seven elves, in honor of Kwanzaa. However, as January 1 appears, Santa has more Kwanzaa spirit than he needs. What will he gift the world in honor of Christmas and Kwanzaa?!
Please see these additional collections for more titles.
Reading Roundup: 10 Children’s Books about Latino Winter Celebrations by Nathalie Mvondo
¡Buenos días! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season! This month I’ve compiled a list of children’s books about winter festivities celebrated in Latin America and Latino communities in the United States. Here at Vamos a Leer we have tons of resources for teaching Latin American and Latino holiday traditions in the classroom. Many of them have been compiled under the heading “Las Posadas,” given that we’ve found many search engines that bring people here just for that topic. Below I’ve compiled a list of ten exemplary books that can help you explore the topic further with your students. I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as I did!