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A Cultural Christmas: 20 Diverse Holiday Picture Books

Posted by Tonisha Kimble on

What’s Christmas without a little culture to jazz it up? This list of 20 picture books feature warm and engaging holiday stories from several different cultures, and all are authored authentically. Carried by bright illustrations, these books are sure to become family or classroom favorites.

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say

As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy’s very first Christmas.

The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C McKissack & Jerry Pinkney

Christmas always comes to Nella’s house, but Santa Claus brings gifts only once in a while. That’s because it’s the Depression and Nella’s family is poor. Even so, Nella’s hoping that this year she and her two sisters will get a beautiful Baby Betty doll.

On Christmas morning, the girls are beside themselves with excitement! There is Baby Betty, in all her eyelash-fluttering magnificence. “Mine!” Nella shouts, and claims the doll for herself. But soon she discovers that Baby Betty isn’t nearly as much fun as her sisters. Would it be more fun to share this very best gift with them after all?

A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora

An award-winning author and a rising star artist have put a festive Latino twist on The Twelve Days of Christmas, populating it with piñatas in place of partridges, plus burritos bailando (dancing donkeys), lunitas cantando (singing moons), and much more, all displayed in the most vivid colors imaginable. In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga, whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book’s conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story. This joyous fiesta will warm even the coldest of hearts.

I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Native American Night Before Christmas by Gary Robinson

An innovative retelling of the classic Christmas tale, this full-color book takes a whimsical look at what Christmas Eve might be like for a Native American family when Old Red Shirt (the Native American Santa Claus) comes a-calling with his team of flying white buffalo to deliver fry bread, commodities and other goodies. Renowned Cherokee artist Jesse Hummingbird’s inspired illustrations transform the author’s playful adaptation into a fresh and modern work of art. A delight for people of all ages and cultures, especially those interested in Native customs and art.

Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L Gong

Ming wishes for three things at Christmas. First, to sing in the school Christmas choir. Second, to have a Christmas tree like the one in the department store window. And third, to feel she belongs somewhere.

As a daughter of immigrants in 1930s California, Ming is often treated differently than other children at school. She’s pointedly not invited to sing in the Christmas choir. At home, when Ming lobbies her parents for a Christmas tree, her mother scolds her for trying to be American. Ming doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere: she’s not quite American enough at school, not quite Chinese enough at home.

Seeing his daughter’s unhappiness, Pop takes her into the mountains to visit a wise old friend. Always happy for an adventure with her kind father, Ming hopes to persuade Pop to bring home a mountain pine to be their Christmas tree. But he has something else in mind, something that will help Ming draw strength from nature, from their Chinese heritage, and from deep and enduring family ties.

Inspired by family stories.

’Twas Mo’ Than Just a Li’l Christmas by Harlem Holiday

After many years of no Santa Claus sightings, ten-year-old Ronnie Anderson hopes this Christmas will be the year he gets his wish — to meet jolly ole St. Nick and ride in his sled. This holiday will be the most special of all when Ronnie gets his Christmas wish and one more big surprise! One that he never saw coming.

New Mexico Christmas Story: Owl in a Straw Hat 3 by Rudolfo Anaya

Acclaimed New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya presents a northern New Mexico Christmas tale in this third volume from his Owl in a Straw Hat series featuring the loveable Ollie Tecolote and his Wisdom School classmates Uno the Unicorn, Jackie Jackalope, Bessie Beaver, Sally Skunk, Robbie Rabbit, and Ninja Raccoon. The story begins on Christmas Eve morning in Chimayó and the students play in the snow and decorate a Christmas tree for the classroom. They are looking forward to the evening’s activities. Nana, their teacher, is making posole and chile colorado and has invited some special guests to join them for dinner. After that Nana says they’ll walk to El Santuario to visit the Santo Niño and promises hot chocolate and biscochitos afterward! Along the way, they will act the parts of the shepherds in Los pastores, the Shepherds’ Play, which is about shepherds visiting the newborn baby Jesus and bringing him gifts. At the end of their journey, they too will visit the Nativity and bring their own gifts on this magical night.

Carla and the Christmas Cornbread by Carla Hall

In this heartwarming tale inspired by her childhood, superstar chef and TV host Carla Hall shares the story of young Carla, who eats a sugar cookie meant for Santa on the night before Christmas and tries to make things right.

A Piece of Black Cake for Santa by Yolanda T Marshall

Femi and her friends planned to leave some traditional Caribbean treats out for Santa, including Black Cake. The children shared warm wishes for their favorite dishes while enjoying winter activities at the Christmas fair.

The Real Santa by Nancy Redd

Join one Black family on their journey to discover what the real Santa looks like in this joyous tale celebrating identity, family and holiday cheer, from the New York Times bestselling author of Bedtime Bonnet.

Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina

An African American boy considers the meaning of giving and sharing and comes to understand the true spirit of Christmas.

In this delightfully original Christmas story, our young narrator is thrilled. His favorite holiday is coming, and he looks forward to the presents, a great big tree, and baking a chocolate cake with his grandmother. But soon he starts to wonder: What happens to all the trees that get cut down and don’t make it to the next Christmas? And what about all the people who don’t have a place to live or food to eat or presents in a stocking/or under a tree? His thoughts shift — maybe he should give his extra presents to kids who don’t have any, and give homeless people hats, gloves, and scarves. He realizes that Christmas is really about community, people coming together and helping each other. Christmas makes me think/about others/and not just me! His thoughtfulness leads to a magical celebration of the real spirit of Christmas.

Tony Medina has written a poetic and moving Christmas story that is sure to be a hit with all families during Christmas. Chandra Cox has colorfully illustrated the story with bright and unique mixed-media collage art, giving it a very contemporary feel. The author includes a page of resources for children and families who want to get more involved in their community, especially around the holidays.

My Baby Loves Christmas by Jabari Asim

Celebrate all the lovely things that Baby discovers about Christmas. This board book, the perfect gift for a new baby, features rhythmic poetry from Jabari Asim and adorable art from Tara Nicole Whitaker.

Soulful Holidays: An inclusive rhyming story celebrating the joys of Christmas and Kwanzaa by Ciara L Hill

An inclusive rhyming story celebrating the joys of Christmas and Kwanzaa!

Soulful holidays give readers a sense of the soulful nature of both Christmas and Kwanzaa in a way that honors the Black and African American experience.

Cozy up together with this charmingly illustrated family book told in easy-to-read memorable rhymes. Through this heartwarming tale, children and families all over the world can experience the magic of Christmas and the true essence of Kwanzaa. Read about the food, songs, cultural decorations, and more! The catchy couplets in this dazzling picture book will delight readers with the inclusive traditions of families who honor one or both of these incredible holidays.

The Colors of Kwanzaa by Dr Kim D Harris

The Colors of Kwanzaa is about the culture, faces, music, spirit, language, and love of Kwanzaa. It’s colorful pages are designed to promote cultural sustainability and love of community.

The People Remember by Ibi Zoboi

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Ibi Zoboi comes her debut picture book — a tour de force that uses the principles of Kwanzaa to talk about the history of African Americans. This lyrical, powerful tribute is sumptuously illustrated by New Yorker artist and rising star Loveis Wise. A beautiful gift for readers of all ages and for fans of Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book!

Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Angela Shelf Medearis

A kid-friendly guide to the history and customs of Kwanzaa.

This informative and fun guide to the holiday of Kwanzaa by Black author Angela Shelf Medearis provides information about parties, recipes for African-inspired dishes, instructions for craft projects, and brief biographies of individuals who are connected to the holiday and its history.

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis

In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars. Using the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles of Kwanzaa, the author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community. Magnificent and inspiring linoleum block prints by Daniel Minter bring joy to this Kwanzaa celebration.

The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L Washington

It’s the end of December, and it’s that time of year! Light the candles on the kinara! Fly the bendera, and listen to stories from Africa. Bake some tasty benne cakes and make a colorful cow tale switch! It’s time for the festival of Kwanzaa.

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