Sunday, December 26, 2010

The True Meaning of Kwanzaa

Coming together to help others. That’s the true meaning of Kwanzaa. But what if you are too little?

LI’L RABBIT’S KWANZAA, by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Katherine Tegen Books, 2010.

Li’l Rabbit could recite a litany of what’s wrong with being the littlest rabbit in the family. For starters, he’s always in the way. Then guilt sits on his small shoulders like a rock when he’s upset because his grandmother is too ill to be the guiding force behind the family’s Kwanzaa preparations.

Grandmother is too ill to take part in the dinner, his favorite, a feast called Karamu, and his mother is too busy taking care of Granna Rabbit to cook all the traditional foods. Then Li’l Rabbit thinks about the meaning of Kwanzaa. He decides to take Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu. How hard is that?

First Li’l Rabbit learns that Mamma Oriole, Groundhog, the frogs, Momma Field Mouse, and Poppa Squirrel don’t know anything about Kwanzaa or Karamu. What they do know is all the kind and helpful deeds Granna Rabbit has done for them. Shows you don’t have to understand or know much about a person’s beliefs or traditions as long as you know that person’s heart.

What the animals do and how they surprise Li’l Rabbit–not realizing their actions are examples of Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, results in Granna Rabbit teaching everyone a new word: Harambee! It means, “Let’s Pull Together.”

Even though Li’l Rabbit has a great celebration with his friends, dancing, singing, and eating, he is still sad that he didn’t bring Granna Rabbit something special. Young readers will be quick to catch on to what he really did, and Granna Rabbit snuggles him up and tells him, too.

If you have faith, there’s always hope. Granna has faith in Li’l Rabbit. She also thinks this was the best Karamu ever, probably because the whole community got involved.

No matter what your holiday traditions, Harambee!

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