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My First Kwanzaa Book by Deborah Chocolate
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My First Kwanzaa Book (1992)

by Deborah Chocolate, Cal Massey (Illustrator)

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I thought this was a great book for children for a couple of reasons. Before I read this book, I didn't know what Kwanzaa was, and it describes it briefly, but is very informative on the aspects of Kwanzaa. It's about a little boy's first Kwanzaa, and on each page starting from December 26th-Jan1st it shows what he does for Kwanzaa that day. This includes dressing up in African clothing, making African beads, looking at the map and flag, learning about African history, and finally, spending time with family. The overall message is that Kwanzaa is a time for family to share memories and become more informed on the African heritage, while spending time with loved ones. As he learns about all the different aspects of his culture, he gets to spend time with his relatives and really be proud of his culture.
I thought the way the book was set up really helped understand the days and events of Kwanzaa. For example, the first page "December 26th" has one candle lit, the next page "December 27th" has two candles lit, and so on, until the last page "January 1st" where all the candles are lit because it is the last day of Kwanzaa. On the different pages, it describes another tradition of Kwanzaa. On the third page, December 28th, he is learning about the map and flag. On December 30th, he makes African beads with his grandma, and on January 1st, his family shares hugs and presents. The way they set it up made it really easy to learn the different Kwanzaa traditions.
I also thought the pictures helped a lot when picturing the celebration. In the beginning of the book, he and his family put on African clothing, which are depicted in the pictures throughout the book as colorful, bold, exotic clothing. On the page where he is learning about the flag and map, his dad is holding the red, black, and green flag, and his mama is hanging up a map of Africa.The reading was simple, it had one or two sentences on a page, but the pictures further explained the text. The author did a good job showing the different African clothing, jewelry, and beads that they make.
As someone who doesn't know anything about Kwanzaa, I learned a lot from reading this easy-to-read picture book. I think it would be a great book for young children to read and become more familiar with different culture's holidays. In the end, Kwanzaa is about spending time with family and friends who love each other, which is what most holidays entail. This can help children realize that although there are many differences among holidays and celebrations, there are also similarities such as family coming together. ( )
  emilymcnally | Dec 12, 2016 |
I really enjoyed reading this book because it was informative and easy to read without prior knowledge. For example, On the very first page it explains Kwanzaa is a holiday. Another reason I really enjoyed this book is because it uses short sentences that flow in order. On the bottom right corner of each page there is a picture of Kwanzaa candles that are dated and the events take place in order.
The main idea of this book is to explore family traditions and share about other cultures. ( )
  jraeke1 | Feb 17, 2014 |
In this book, an unnamed boy talks about various things that his family does to celebrate Kwanzaa. With the constant refrain of "It's Kwanzaa time," he notes something new like lighting candles or unfurling a map of Africa. In this way, the book introduces young readers to various Kwanzaa traditions in a way that is slightly more exciting than a dry nonfiction book.

The downside of this book is I feel like it doesn't do enough to explain the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Each day of Kwanzaa is given a spread with a picture of a kinara in the lower right indicating what principle is relevant that day. But the text itself does not necessarily show the family doing something that embodies that principle. For instance, December 30th is for "nia" ("purpose"), but the text and illustrations show the boy beading necklaces with his mother and grandmother -- an activity that seems better fitted to the following day's principle ("kuumba" = "creativity") in which the story goes on to have other family members come visit.

In an afterword section, the author does explain more about Kwanzaa, the seven principles, and a variety of Swahili words related to the holiday. While this is certainly helpful for further learning, I wish that the story itself had done a better job of illuminating the Kwanzaa traditions - although it did well enough in terms of discussing the holiday with my very young class of toddlers. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jan 15, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book because of the writing and illustrations. It took me a bit to catch on, but I liked how the author starts almost every page with the little boy's mama or papa saying "it's Kwanza time" because every time they did that, we as the reader got to really experience his holiday and we got to see first hand what this little boy is going through on this day of Kwanza. The writing is very easy to read, which is a good thing for readers who are trying to learn about or read about this boy's African holiday that he is celebrating. I liked that the illustrations went hand in hand with the writing; it made the story come to life seeing him excited to dress up in clothes from his culture and even to see his family. I think the illustrations are especially good because this teaches us a little bit about African culture since one might not know what an "African queen" looks like until they see the picture of his mother dressed up. I think that the author's message from this book was to be able to give the readers a glimpse into what goes on during the Kwamza holiday. ( )
  ewestr1 | Nov 5, 2013 |
In my opinion, this was a good book. The glossary of terms in the back of the book that described the seven nights and principles of Kwanzaa were informative and written very clearly so that someone who does not celebrate Kwanzaa can understand. Also, the author presented the information in an engaging way so as to teach readers about the holiday as well as keep them interested and entertained. She did this by presenting the information through a narrative story. The main idea of this book is that Kwanzaa is a time for celebrating African heritage with family and friends. ( )
  katiebrennan | Nov 4, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Chocolateprimary authorall editionscalculated
Massey, CalIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0439129265, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:31 -0400)

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Introduces Kwanzaa, the holiday in which Afro-Americans celebrate their cultural heritage.

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