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The Story of Kwanzaa    by Donna L. Washington & Stephen Taylor order for
Story of Kwanzaa
by Donna L. Washington
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 1997 (1996)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This cheerful picture book teaches us all about Kwanzaa, a celebration of the African American heritage that begins on December 26th each year. It opens with a history of African Americans - their origins in various kingdoms in Africa; slavery, and the stories (like those about Brer Rabbit) and spiritual songs that emerged from it; the American civil war and the freedom that was its outcome; the civil rights movement and Dr. Maulana Karenga's creation of the Kwanzaa festival.

Then we learn about the meaning of Kwanzaa ('first fruits' in Swahili) and its seven 'Nguzo Saba' (beliefs), one for each day of the holiday - 'umoja' (unity), 'kujichagulia' (self-determination), 'ujima' (working together), 'ujamaa' (supporting African-American businesses), 'nia' (purpose), 'kuumba' (creativity), and 'imani' (faith). Preparations for the holiday are explained next, with children at the center, culminating in the 'Karamu' feast. At the back of the book are instructions to make small Kwanzaa gifts - a 'cow tail switch', and 'Benne cakes' (which I plan to try soon) - and a glossary of festival phrases.

The Story of Kwanzaa is an excellent little primer, aimed at kids from 6 to 10, and of interest to anyone who wants to learn about this popular holiday.

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