‘Tis the Season for Stories: 20 Picture Books for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Holiday Books

Open Sesame (photo credit: Cheli Mennella)

‘Tis the season for stories. And what better way to share a story than snuggling up with your favorite kids and turning the pages of a beloved holiday book. Here are twenty suggestions for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa!

  1. The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1985. A boy takes a magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole.
  2. Chanukah Lights written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Robert Sabuda. Published by Candlewick, 2011. Follow the Festival of Lights through time and place from Herod’s temple to an Israeli kibbutz, by way of poetry and exquisite pop-ups.
  3. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. Describes the festival of Kwanzaa, its origins and practices, while pictures follow a family through the seven-day celebration.
  4. The Longest Night written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Published by Holiday House, 2009. On the longest night of the year, a crow, a moose, and a fox think they can bring back the light, but it is the song of the chickadee that wakes the sun.
  5. The Third Gift written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Published by Clarion Books, 2011. A boy and his father collect the tears of myrrh trees, then bring them to market, where they sell them to three men who need a special gift for a baby.
  6. The Jolly Christmas Postman Written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by LB Kids, 2001. As the Jolly Postman delivers holiday letters and gifts to fairytale characters readers can join in the fun by finding messages tucked into pocket envelopes.
  7. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Published by Holiday House, 1994. Clever Herschel of Ostropol uses pickles, eggs, and a dreidel to outwit the hill-dwelling goblins and save Hanukkah.
  8. The Little Tree written by E. E. Cummings and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Published by Hyperion books for Children, 2001. A little tree from the country and a little family from the city find each other at Christmastime.
  9. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter. Published by Albert Whitman & Co., 2000. When given the task of turning thread into gold, seven Ashanti brothers embody the principles of Kwanzaa to attempt the impossible.
  10. The Money We’ll Save written and illustrated by Brock Cole. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. When Pa brings home a turkey poult to raise in the family’s 19th century New York City tenement, hilarity and problems arise, but the family pulls together and saves Christmas from being ruined.  Read the rest of this entry »

50 Years of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa: Celebrating 50 Years!

In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga established an African American and Pan-African holiday, Kwanzaa, based on traditional African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Organized around seven principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), Kwanzaa aims to preserve, continually revitalize, and promote African American culture. A week-long celebration observed from December 26 to January 1. During this time, look for annual community-based celebrations in which to participate.

Share this video with your kids, discovering the history and tradition of this celebration:

The Malcolm X Cultural Center at UMass in Amherst hosts an annual Kwanzaa Celebration. Other annual Kwanzaa celebrations take place in Springfield and Pittsfield. Learn more about the symbols, values, and history of Kwanzaa online at www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org.


Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover winter holiday traditions being celebrated across the region.

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2016

Learning Ahead: Nov & Dec Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: November & December

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for November and December includes:

  • Learn about FOOD preservation: Harvest, Butchers & Museums
  • Veterans Day as a CATALYST for learning: Literature, History & Music
  • Looking through the LENS of Thanksgiving: Poetry & Painting
  • VALUE based engagement: Handmade &  Non-Commercial
  • Local HABITAT connects us to myth & nature: Christmas Trees
  • PLACEMAKING with annual events: Holiday Strolls & Caroling
  • Experience other CULTURES through the holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa & Three Kings Day
  • Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Solstice & Storytelling
  • Engage in New England TRADITIONS: First Night & First Hikes

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: ♦ Montague BookmillNew England Air MuseumDowntown Northampton AssociationSpringfield Museums.

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2015

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2014

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2013

‘Tis the Season for Stories: 20 Picture Books for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Holiday Books

Open Sesame (photo credit: Cheli Mennella)

‘Tis the season for stories. And what better way to share a story than snuggling up with your favorite kids and turning the pages of a beloved holiday book. Here are twenty suggestions for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Some are brand new books and some are not-so-new favorites, but all are sure to get you and your kids into the holiday spirit.

  1. The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1985. A boy takes a magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole.
  2. Chanukah Lights written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Robert Sabuda. Published by Candlewick, 2011. Follow the Festival of Lights through time and place from Herod’s temple to an Israeli kibbutz, by way of poetry and exquisite pop-ups.
  3. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. Describes the festival of Kwanzaa, its origins and practices, while pictures follow a family through the seven-day celebration.
  4. The Longest Night written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Published by Holiday House, 2009. On the longest night of the year, a crow, a moose, and a fox think they can bring back the light, but it is the song of the chickadee that wakes the sun.
  5. The Third Gift written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Published by Clarion Books, 2011. A boy and his father collect the tears of myrrh trees, then bring them to market, where they sell them to three men who need a special gift for a baby.
  6. The Jolly Christmas Postman Written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by LB Kids, 2001. As the Jolly Postman delivers holiday letters and gifts to fairytale characters readers can join in the fun by finding messages tucked into pocket envelopes.
  7. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Published by Holiday House, 1994. Clever Herschel of Ostropol uses pickles, eggs, and a dreidel to outwit the hill-dwelling goblins and save Hanukkah.
  8. The Little Tree written by E. E. Cummings and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Published by Hyperion books for Children, 2001. A little tree from the country and a little family from the city find each other at Christmastime.
  9. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter. Published by Albert Whitman & Co., 2000. When given the task of turning thread into gold, seven Ashanti brothers embody the principles of Kwanzaa to attempt the impossible.
  10. The Money We’ll Save written and illustrated by Brock Cole. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. When Pa brings home a turkey poult to raise in the family’s 19th century New York City tenement, hilarity and problems arise, but the family pulls together and saves Christmas from being ruined.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kwanzaa Community Celebration in Western Mass

Berkshire Community Kwanzaa Celebration
December 30th, 2010 in Pittsfield, MA

The Women of Color Giving Circle of the Berkshires presents the 5th annual Berkshire Community Kwanzaa Celebration on Thursday, December 30th, from 6pm to 8pm at the American Legion (41 Wendell Ave.)  in downtown Pittsfield.

Kwanzaa is a festival that is celebrated annual from December 26 through January 1.  An annual celebration of family and community, the name Kwanzaa is a Swahili word for “first fruits”.

The Berkshire Community Kwanzaa Celebration on the 30th is a community celebration open to everyone.  The evening will focus on food, singing and  ceremony to highlight Nia, the fifth principle of Kwanzaa.  Swahili for purpose, Nia is celebrated on this 5th day of Kwanzaa.  According to Kwanzaa founder Dr. Maulana Kerenga, on this day “we focus on ways to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”

Local member of the Grammy Award-winning African-American women’s a capella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, Evelyn Harris, will be performing during the celebration.

The fifth annual Berkshire Kwanzaa Celebration is cosponsored by the City of Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development. Tickets will be sold at the door (>$). For more information, contact Nakeida Bethel-Smith at 464-7307.

Eco-Friendly Holiday’s (Web Reviews)

Eco-Friendly Holiday’s (Web Reviews)

Hanukkah: Let There Be (Renewable) Light: A New Look at Hanukkah

This site considers “the connection between Hanukkah [Festival of Lights], energy use, and the environment,” and provides “holiday tips and resources for families, schools, and congregations to infuse Hanukkah celebrations with additional meaning,” and “tips for what you can do save energy in your congregation/school and at home.” Includes a “CFL installation ceremony,” an essay about the meaning of the darkness of winter, and more. From the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

FamilyFun: Have a Happy Green Holiday

Collection of children’s craft activities for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve that “give a gift to Mother Earth … [by turning] holiday and household surplus into festive decorations and eco-friendly packaging.” Includes instructions for a bubble packaging advent calendar, new uses for old greeting cards, fabric wrapping (inspired by Japanese furoshiki), and more. From FamilyFun magazine.

Eco-Friendly Kwanzaa

Craft ideas for making your own Kwanzaa celebration supplies. Includes instructions for making a Kwanzaa candle holder and mat. Also describes how to create other Kwanzaa symbols. From Care2, an activist organization.


Source: Librarians’ Internet Index, http://www.lii.org

Suggested Event 12/20/08-12/26/08

Happy Winter Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and all other seasonal celebrations!

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Ice Storm 2008 - Chesterfield, MA. (click here to view more photos)

Ice Storm 2008 - Chesterfield, MA. (click here to view more photos)

If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.

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Events Happening in the Hilltowns

FEATURED EVENT:

On the Ashfield Town Common will gather community members for an annual Winter Solstice Celebration, featuring bonfire, story telling, singing and Morris Dancers.  This community event is free.  Warm up at Elmer’s after with something hot to drink.

SATURDAY – 12/20

Read the rest of this entry »

Web Review: Eco-Friendly Kwanzaa & The Official Kwanzaa Site

Craft ideas for making your own Kwanzaa celebration supplies. Includes instructions for making a Kwanzaa candle holder and mat. Also describes how to create other Kwanzaa symbols. From Care2, an activist organization.
[www.care2.com/greenliving/eco-friendly-kwanzaa.html] (c.LII.org)

“The Official Kwanzaa Web Site” focuses on the philosophy of Dr. Maulana Karenga, the African-American professor who created the holiday in 1966. It describes in detail the African roots of the holiday, the seven principles, and the seven basic symbols. Includes a comprehensive guide for those celebrating Kwanzaa for the first time. [www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org] (c.LII.org)

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