Saturday, December 15, 2018

Review - Together for Kwanzaa

Together for Kwanzaa
by Juwanda G. Ford
illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger
Date: 2000
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: library

Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I wanted to put off reading this one until a little closer to Kwanzaa (December 26), but my library loan is about to expire. In any case, I wish I'd read this one sooner, because it's probably the best holiday book I've read so far this year.

Together for Kwanzaa doesn't assume that readers already know everything about the holiday (unlike many of the Christmas and Hanukkah books I've read). It starts from the beginning, explaining each element of the celebration along with the appropriate words in Swahili (with the correct pronunciations). Tying everything together is Kayla's wish for her big brother, Khari, to make it home from school for the holiday.

I knew next to nothing about Kwanzaa going into this book, other than that it's celebrated by African-Americans. But now I know what the colours of the candles on the kinara mean (and I even know what a kinara is!) and I know that each candle stands for one of the seven Kwanzaa principles. It's an interesting holiday, one that I haven't really had much exposure to (not having any African heritage and living in an area where people of African descent are pretty rare). I love the fact that it emphasizes community and responsibility, and even though there are gifts, they're supposed to be handmade or educational. (It doesn't seem to share the crazy commercialism that has come to define Christmas in recent years.)

Before I cracked open this book (so to speak; I read the e-book version), I wasn't sure if I was going to like the illustrations. The cover is misleading. The colour palette on the inside is much more vibrant, including quite a bit of hot pink, which makes all the other colours pop. I ended up really enjoying the pictures.

I saw another reviewer say that they wished there had been a glossary at the end with all the Swahili words. While that would've been a bonus, the nice thing about this book is that it doesn't need it. Everything is described perfectly well in the main text.

Overall, this is a really strong holiday picture book. If you're looking to build a diverse collection that includes more than just books about Christmas and Hanukkah, you might want to give Together for Kwanzaa a try.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

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