The Sound of Kwanzaa

Book review by
Dawn Friedman, Common Sense Media
The Sound of Kwanzaa Book Poster Image
Colorful look at the principles the holiday celebrates.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

A solid introduction to the Kwanzaa holiday. Offers a good jumping off point for kids who want to learn more.

Positive messages

The Kwanzaa holiday is about celebrating qualities that will help ourselves and our communities. These qualities -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith -- are important ones for every family.

Positive role models & representations

While there are no characters in this book, the illustrations showcase kids and grown ups celebrating the important principles that are at the root of Kwanzaa.

Violence & scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that whether or not they celebrate Kwanzaa, this picture book has a positive message for readers.

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What's the story?

This very short but sweet book introduces the seven important principles of the African-American holiday Kwanzaa. There's no plot here -- just a song-like recitation of each of the principles that begins each time with, "Come close, gather 'round./Listen to the sound of Kwanzaa." Then there's a quick introduction to the principle for that day. The colorful pictures bring each principle to life and invite the reader to think about ways they can also honor Kwanzaa values.

Is it any good?

This is a terrific first book for kids whose families will be observing the holiday or for anyone who is just looking for a simple explanation of what Kwanzaa is and what the principles mean. Readers after a more in-depth take will have to look elsewhere -- and luckily for them there's a bibliography in the back of the book.

There's also an Author's Note, which tells who invented Kwanzaa and when and includes some of the author's thoughts about her own Kwanzaa celebrations when she was a kid. And don't forget to try the recipe included for raw (no-cooking) brownies. (Warning: for most families, a trip to the grocery will be in order since you may not have a dozen large pitted dates at the ready.)

Bright colors and broad strokes infuse these paintings, effectively conveying the warmth and joy of the family and the broader community celebrations that surround Kwanzaa.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the holiday. For families who are planning to celebrate Kwanzaa, they can talk about what they'll be doing on each of the seven days. What plans do they have on the last day or karamu, the feast day?

  • Kids and parents can also discuss the ways their everyday lives honor the seven principles.

  • Kids may use the short blurb in the back as an inspiration to head to the library to learn more about Kwanzaa's history. Why did Dr. Maulana Karenga (whom we meet in the Author's Note) want to start the holiday?

Book details

For kids who love African-American traditions and holidays

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