Seven Candles for Kwanzaa

by Wendy Bell

seven candles by Andrea Davis Pinkney

illustrated by Brian Pinkney

  • Publisher and date: Puffin, 1998
  • Age/Grade Level: ages 7 to 9 or older
  • Genre: Informational

Instructional Elements

Author Information and Perspective: See previous

Notes:  An excellent, concise resource for elementary classroom teachers.


Specific Applications in Reading Instruction: This book would be appropriate as a teacher read-a-loud to students with group discussion and study in grades 1 through 5.

Curriculum Connections:

This book could be used in the general music classroom as part of a unit that honors the traditions and celebrations of many cultures within the United States of America. The students would learn about Kwanzaa and then sing songs from both the African tradition and specific songs about Kwanzaa in the American tradition; for example, “A Kwanzaa Holiday” found in the Scott Foresman, Silver Burdette and Ginn Grade 4 Music Connection series.

Literary Elements

Setting: The family home.

Characters: An African American family.

Conflict: Some reference to the dificulties that the culture has faced throughout history.

Themes: African culture, African American culture, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith).

Plot: see in review

Reviews Gail Hudson

Although Kwanzaa commemorates an ancient African harvest ritual, it is a relatively new holiday in North America. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa comfortably explains the origins, language, and daily themes of this warm and festive seven-day holiday. Author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s tone is that of a friendly, well-informed teacher, which is fine considering the purpose of the book. Ideas for daily Kwanzaa rituals abound. For example, on the fourth day, in honor of ujamaa (cooperative family economics), families can use the coins that they’ve saved over the year to buy a gift for the family “like a clock that chimes or a hallway mirror.” Illustrator Brian Pinkney takes on the more colorful role of storyteller with his scratchboard drawings of a family in the midst of daily Kwanzaa activities and celebrations. Each domestic scene is framed in an earth-toned border of traditional African patterns–bridging the two continents page by page. The thoughtful details and human interactions in each drawing speak to the core meaning of the holiday, that of honoring one’s family, community, and heritage. (Ages 7 and older) –Gail Hudson –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

An introduction to the history, symbols, and customary celebration of this African-American holiday. Scratchboard illustrations stress the importance of Kwanzaa as a family event with warmly colored, harmoniously composed domestic scenes. Cultural cross-connections are drawn in the first two pictures (an American family exchanges gifts, including a length of kente cloth; then identically posed figures are transposed to a traditional African village) and enhanced by borders in African motifs. The author briefly discusses the Seven Principles, suggesting activities for Kwanzaa and through the year. Similar in information to Chocolate’s Kwanzaa (1990) and My First Kwanzaa Book (1992), but the visual riches and less didactic tone here are superior. Useful four-item reading list. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 7-9) — Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.




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