Monday, December 15, 2014

Celebrate Diversity in December ~By Suzy Leopold

Our nation is rich with diversity, and is reflected in the observances celebrated by various cultures and populations during the month of December. Christmas is not the only religious holiday that is celebrated this month. There are numerous children's picture books that depict stories with information about the customs and cultures of the many holidays celebrated during this month.

The following books are excellent reads to acquire new information and a better understanding of three special celebrations:

José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad 
Two Stories Celebrating Christmas
Pictures by David Diaz
Feliz Navidad
The spirit of Christmas crosses cultural boundaries as families celebrate around the world. With the Christmas spirit families and friends come together to join in a parranda, in Puerto Rico. 

During the holiday season, people go caroling from house to house singing songs called aguinaldos while playing guitarras, tamborilles and maracas to serenade and spread good cheer. The traveling party continues to dance and sing throughout the neighborhood, all night long. An outdoor cookout with homemade food is the final stop that unites families and friends together on Christmas morning.

About José Feliciano 
José was born in Puerto Rico in 1945. His family moved to New York when José was five year old. The lyrics for the song, Feliz Navidad were written by José Feliciano and released in 1968. 

About David Diaz 
David was born in 1960. He grew up in Florida and California. David’s Mom is from Puerto Rico. The illustrations for Feliz Navidad are bold and colorful.

Feliz Navidad es una canción bilingüe en español y Inglés, escrita por José Feliciano, y es la acompanante perfecta de este libro que le ensena a los niños, de una manera divertida, lo que es una parranda Puerto Rico y una fiesta navidena tradicional. Una parranda llena de canciónes navidenas tradicionales, intrumentos musicales y mucha comida. Los niños aprenderan acerca de esta tipica celebración.

Puerto Rico's Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, begins around ten o'clock in the evening. The party ends in the wee hours of the morning and everyone returns home to celebrate Navidad or Christmas.

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat A Chanukah Story
Story and Illustrations by Naomi Howland
Latkes, Latkes
Good to Eat
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates the fight for religious freedom. Those of the Jewish faith light candles in a menorah for eight nights as they celebrate and remember Nes Gadol Hayah Po, “A Great miracle happened here.”

The story begins . . . Once, on the outskirts of a tiny village, a girl named Sadie lived with her four brothers, Herschel, Hillel, Hayim, and the baby, Max. The family is poor and Sadie and her four little brothers are always hungry. On the first night of Chanukah, Sadie performs a generous act, and in turn receives a frying pan that cooks up hot, golden latkes on command. Sadie warns her brothers to never use the magic pan, but when she goes out one afternoon, the mischievous boys can't resist. The boys remember the words to start the pan cooking, but they do not recall the words to make it stop! 

This is a humorous tale of generosity and greed. A recipe for Sadie's yummy latkes is included.

About Naomi Howland
“When I was little I told my teacher that I wanted to be an "Artist Mommy" and that is exactly what I am today,” states Naomi.

Chanukah or Hanukkah is celebrated on December 16th -24th.

Seven Spools of Thread
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Seven Spools of Thread
Seven brothers spend their lives fighting and bickering. When their father passes, he instructs them, through his will, to turn seven spools of thread into gold. If they do not, they will become beggars. Read to find out if  the brothers discover the seven principles of Kwanzaa in time to save them and their village from ruin.

Dr. Maulana Karenga founded Kwanzaa, in 1966. The seven day celebration is about expressing black pride and to share seven important themes for conducting one's life in a positive way. The seven values are: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

About Angela Shelf Medearis
"I started writing children's books because I wanted children, particularly African-American children, to see a positive reflection of the African and African-American experience, our families, community and our history, in the books that they read," said Angela Shelf Medearis. Medearis founded and directs Book Boosters, a multicultural program for all grade levels that concentrates on the reading of creative writing and drama.

About Daniel Minter
Daniel creates beautiful illustrations using linoleum block prints that are hand painted or reproduced in black & white.

Kwanzaa is celebrated on December 26th to January 1st.
O Christmas Tree
Take time to grow and learn about traditions that may be new to you. Teachers can create many multicultural lessons that share a better understanding for cultural awareness in the classroom by reading picture books that depict diversity.
Merry Christmas
Our Fir Tree
Whatever holiday[s] you choose to celebrate with family and friends, I wish you love, peace and joy. And I must not forget   . . . Enjoy the many holiday dishes and yummy treats at your celebration. May I serve you?
Sugar Cookies


  1. Suzy, this is a beautiful post and very inclusive. I like how you have added the info of both author & illustrator. Merry Christmas to YOU.

    1. Kathy: I acquired some new knowledge as I read about the authors and the illustrators. Many years ago, I met Angela Shelf Medearis. She lives in Austin, Texas. Enjoy the celebrations with Tobin and Rosie. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, Sydney, all three are excellent reads. I would consider these books creative non fiction. Thank you for reading the GROG Blog. ~Suzy Leopold

  3. Great write-up about these books and their authors, even writing a paragraph in Spanish! And I love your Nativity display, and the cookies are making my mouth water.

    1. Gracias, Tina. The Nativity set is made of olive wood from the Holy Land. It is a gift from my Mom, who enjoyed her travels around the world. Today I am baking gingerbread cookies and peanut butter blossoms. Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo.

  4. These three books sound terrific and are a great way to introduce kids to the other celebrations that are taking place in the US. Thanks, Suzy!

    1. Oh, and I love those square sugar cookies -- what a unique twist!

    2. As you well know, Patty, it is so important to learn and grow and have a better understanding of cultural diversity. It encourages us to recognize and respect *ways of being* that are not necessarily our own. Sugar cookies come in all shapes and sizes in our home. Would you like a glass of milk or a hot cup of tea with yours?

  5. Suzy - que bueno a historia! More than ever these days it seems the least we can do is try to understand faith paths of people who are peace loving as all these authors & illustrators are proven to be. I love how you've given attention to the artist & the writer & all your covers & lucious holiday photographs.
    Merrie, Merrie Christmas to ya!

    1. Muchas gracias por sus comentarios, Jan. ¡Felicidades a usted y su familia! Abrazos. ~Suzy