Friday, December 27, 2013

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

Yesterday, families across the country began Kwanzaa celebrations. My son, who is in preschool now, had the opportunity to make Kwanzaa candles this year. Although we aren't celebrating the full holiday here at home this year (we have another short trip planned), my husband and I have taken plenty of opportunities throughout the year to introduce our children to the principles of Kwanzaa.  

We are also keen on introducing other parts of our lives that are rooted in our culture and traditions—which, at this time of year, tend to be both exciting and exhausting. 

This year, we took another trip to visit Grandma, Grandpa, cousins, and family abroad in the Caribbean.

We visited the rainforest and had a waterfall to ourselves for an entire afternoon. 

Our son and daughter also spent countless hours playing hide and seek with nieces and nephews (I think I have 34 on that side of the family—so there were always companions willing and ready to play!)

For the kids, swimming in Uncle's rooftop pool highlighted the trip. 
(The high winds up there made Mom a little nervous.)

(Addendum: there were flooding rains in St. Lucia on Christmas Eve; please pray for everyone and all St. Lucians!)

We braved a nearly 100-degree temperature drop as we headed back to the Upper Midwest for Christmas. We also made the children dress up, try all kinds of foods, and patiently wait for hours before giving and opening gifts at family gatherings. To their credit, our childrens' behavior was impressive through all the holiday hustle and bustle this year. See how angelic they look?

But I digress. 

I'll now get back to the tradition of Kwanzaa, which is a beautiful holiday for a number of reasons. Regardless of whether your family celebrates it or not, there's a book I'd like to share with you. It's not a new book, but it is one I've been recommending for nearly a decade since I first read it and shared it with students. So, today's Perfect Picture Book is...

SEVEN SPOOLS OF THREAD by Angela Shelf Medearis

Title: Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story
Author: Angela Shelf Medearis
Illustrator: Daniel Minter
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2000
Category: Picture Book
Ages: 5-10
Genre: Folk Tale
Topics: Kwanzaa, Holiday, Values, Working Together, Ghana, Africa, Siblings, Kente Cloth, Grief/Loss, Multicultural
Summary: In an Ghanian village, seven brothers make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will become beggars.

Why I chose this book: The colors and art in the book are stunning—Minter uses a very unique woodblock technique that isn't used often in children's books today. I'm also huge fan of folk tales and of studying values that affect our lives and communities. Most importantly, though, is that I've read it to groups of children again and again—and they get into it. (I think most of them relate easily to quarreling with siblings!) One group of children once turned the book into a short skit for their classmates, which was fun to see.

Resources: This book comes with an activity and resources at the end. I'll admit, the activity isn't the easiest for young children (or inept mothers!). But this year's hottest Christmas present in our family was the Rainbow Loom, which would make a perfect companion to this book if you're looking for a craft activity. 

This book, and celebrating Kwanzaa in general, is also a way to begin introducing some of the many new and amazing nonfiction picture books that narrate American history and African American heroes and previously "under-told" stories. 

And here are some more sites about Ghana, Kwanzaa, and kente cloth:

About Kwanzaa (with tons of activity ideas):

About kente cloth (from an actual Ghanaian weaver):

Paper kente cloth activity (easier than the activity in the book):

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you've had (or are having) a joyous season, however you and your family are celebrating this year. Oh, and if you'd like to see more Perfect Picture Books, head on over to Susanna Hill's blog!

(I still love saying that.)

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