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.
by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood; illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Librarians and book experts also recommend:
- Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by Jon Hendrix
- Every Month is a New Year by Marilyn Singer; illustrated by Susan L. Roth
- Celebrate The World book series (Día de los Muertos, Ramadan and Diwali) by Hannah Eliot
- We Are Grateful: Ostaliheliga by Traci Sorell; illustrated by Frané Lessac
- The Story of Easter by Aileen Fisher; illustrated by Stefano Vitale
- Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Brantley Newton
- All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
- The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang; illustrated by Alina Chau
- Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations by Catherine Rondina; illustrated by Jacqui Oakley
- Light the Lights!: A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas by Margaret Moorman
- O’ Christmas Tree: Its History and Holiday Traditions by Jacqueline Farmer and illustrated by Joanne Friar
- Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals by Liana Romulo; illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano
- In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza
- Sona and the Wedding Game by Kashmira Sheth; illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi
- The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
- Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Brian Pinkney
- Divali Rose by Vashanti Rahaman; illustrated by Jamel Akib
- Kids Around the World Celebrate!: The Best Feasts and Festivals from Many Lands by Lynda Jones
- A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman; illustrated by Susan Gal
- Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns and Stars! by Betty Reynolds