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Books to learn about different cultures
First Laugh: Welcome Baby! photo courtesy Charlesbridge; Festival of Colors photo courtesy Simon & Schuster; More Than Enough: A Passover Story photo courtesy Penguin Random House; Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns photo courtesy Chronicle Books; All Are Welcome photo courtesy Penguin Random House; What Do You Celebrate? photo courtesy Sterling Publishing; Background Source: iStock

Books That Celebrate Cultural Traditions

Recommendations from local book experts and librarians.

Some need to look no farther than the family next door to see they’re surrounded by diverse cultures; others need to travel a bit more. Regardless of where you look, cultural traditions and holidays can seem as foreign as an unknown language if they aren’t ones celebrated by your family. Check out these books to help foster understanding for your neighbors’ traditions and beliefs near and far, in a world full of differences.

First Laugh: Welcome, Baby! 

by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood; illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
(Charlesbridge, 2018)

This story is recommended by Denver Public Library librarians as well as the staff at BookBar. “In this loving tribute to the first laugh ceremony in Navajo tradition, members of a modern Navajo family—spread out across country and city—all try to be the first to evoke a laugh from baby,” says Carrie Wolfson, Denver Public Library children’s librarian. “The illustrations capture the warmth of family as well as rich colors of the Southwest, and some intriguing endnotes talk about birth celebrations around the world.”

What Do You Celebrate?

by Whitney Stewart; illustrated by Christine Engel
(Sterling Children’s Books, March 5, 2019)

Kids can learn about 14 festivals and special holidays all around the world, from Brazil’s Carnival to Israel’s Purim to Bhutan’s Dangpai Losar (a new year celebration). Each spread of the book features a different celebration, complete with traditional games, foods, projects, vocabulary words, and cultural significance for each one.

All Are Welcome

by Alexandra Penfold; illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
(Alfred. A Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018)

Readers follow a group of children through their school—some students wear patkas or other head coverings from their cultures, while others wear baseball caps—and everyone is welcome. All students have the chance to learn from one another’s traditions, and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

by Hena Khan; illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
(Chronicle Books, 2012)

In a book about Islam’s traditions, everyday colors are given special meaning, from a red prayer rug to a blue hijab. With a young Muslim girl as a guide, readers will learn about clothing, food, and other elements of Islamic culture. Includes a glossary of commonly used Muslim words.

Festival of Colors

by Surishtha and Kabir Sehgal; illustrated by
Vashti Harrison (Beach Lane Books, 2018)

Learn about Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors celebrated each spring, in this book written by a mother and son duo. Siblings Mintoo and Chintoo gather flowers to make into colorful powders to toss during the festival, which is a celebration of fresh starts, friendship, forgiveness, and fun.

More Than Enough: A Passover Story

by April Halprin Wayland; illustrated by Katie Kath
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016)

The book’s title comes from the Passover Seder song, Dayenu, meaning, “It would have been enough.” The story follows a Jewish family as they gather items for their Seder meal, and adopt a kitten along the way. At Nana’s house, the children participate in a variety of holiday traditions related to Passover, such as chopping apples for charoset and searching for the hidden afikomen.

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