Children’s books celebrate cultures, traditions of holiday season

Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi (Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing)
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Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi (Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing)

Credit: Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing

The holiday season is now in full swing and that means shorter days, spending more time indoors with loved ones and trying to stay warm.

In the spirit of the season, here’s a diverse list of children’s books about holidays and traditions that are celebrated during the winter months.

From the story of a Jewish Indian American family getting together for a Hanukkah meal in “Queen of Hanukkah Dosas” to finding a way to get out of trouble on Christmas Eve with “Too Many Tamales,” the stories on this list bring together various cultures from around the world.

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"Together for Kwanzaa" by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated Shelly Hehenberger (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Publisher: Penguin Random House

"Together for Kwanzaa" by Juwanda G. Ford,  illustrated Shelly Hehenberger (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)
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"Together for Kwanzaa" by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated Shelly Hehenberger (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Publisher: Penguin Random House

Credit: Publisher: Penguin Random House

Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger

Kayla’s family always gets together to celebrate Kwanzaa, but a snowstorm may prevent her big brother Khari from making it home in time to take part in the festivities. As she waits for her brother to arrive, Kayla and her family go on with the seven-day Black American celebration of culture and heritage. (Penguin Random House, $3.99)

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"Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas" by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Courtesy of: Macmillan Publishers)

Credit: Courtesy Macmillan Publishers

"Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas" by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Courtesy of: Macmillan Publishers)
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"Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas" by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Courtesy of: Macmillan Publishers)

Credit: Courtesy Macmillan Publishers

Credit: Courtesy Macmillan Publishers

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

Sadie’s multicultural family celebrates Hanukkah by incorporating Jewish and Indian traditions and foods together. So instead of traditional latkes — potato pancakes — the family fries up dosas, a crepe-like dish, for holiday. As Sadie’s family is preparing for their celebrations, something goes wrong and everyone ends up locked outside of the house. Luckily, Sadie has a special skill that can help save the day. As a bonus, this book includes recipes for dosas and sambar, a lentil stew. (Macmillan Publishers, $16.99)

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"We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

"We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac
(Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)
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"We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac

To express gratitude, members of the Cherokee Nation use the word “otsaliheliga” (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah). This word is used throughout the year as a reminder to reflect on blessings and lessons learned from struggles. This book highlights the seasons, celebrations and every day moments when otsaliheliga would be expressed. It also teaches children about Cherokee traditions. (Penguin Random House, $17.99)

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"Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

"Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez
(Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)
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"Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez

When Maria finds her mother’s diamond ring sitting on the counter, she can’t help but to try it on. The plan was to only wear it for a moment, but Maria ends up losing the ring. She thinks it may have ended up in the tamales the family was making for Nochebuena — Christmas Eve. With the help of her favorite cousin, Maria comes up with a plan to recover the ring without getting into trouble. (Penguin Random House, $8.99)

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Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi (Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing)

Credit: Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing

Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi (Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing)
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Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi (Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing)

Credit: Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing

Credit: Courtesy: Shadow Mountain Publishing

Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong, illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants in 1930s California, Ming often feels like an outsider. As Christmas approaches, she makes three wishes: to sing in the Christmas choir, to have a Christmas tree like the ones in department stores and to feel like she belongs. In an effort to help her daughter find joy, Ming’s dad takes her on an adventure to the mountains where she learns about her heritage and herself. (Shadow Mountain Publishing. $18.99)

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"Freedom Soup" by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara Courtesy of: Penguin Random House

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

"Freedom Soup" by Tami Charles, illustrated by  Jacqueline Alcántara 
Courtesy of: Penguin Random House
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"Freedom Soup" by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara Courtesy of: Penguin Random House

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

It’s the first day of the new year and for Belle that means spending the day in the kitchen learning how to make soup joumou, a pumpkin soup eaten by Haitians every Jan. 1st to commemorate the country’s independence from France. Throughout the day Belle learns about her Haitian heritage, dances and helps prepare the soup for her family. The book includes a recipe. (Penguin Random House / $7.99)

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"The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice" by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Jesse Reisch (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

"The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice" by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Jesse Reisch  (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)
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"The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice" by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Jesse Reisch (Courtesy of: Penguin Random House)

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Jesse Reisch

The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and is celebrated around the world. This book touches on how the day is observed in various cultures and the way ancient celebrations influence contemporary traditions. (Penguin Random House, $8.99)

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"Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas" by Gail Piernas-Davenport, illustrated by Marion Eldridge (Courtesy: Albert Whitman & Co.)

Credit: Courtesy: Albert Whitman & Co.

"Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas" by Gail Piernas-Davenport, illustrated by Marion Eldridge (Courtesy: Albert Whitman & Co.)
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"Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas" by Gail Piernas-Davenport, illustrated by Marion Eldridge (Courtesy: Albert Whitman & Co.)

Credit: Courtesy: Albert Whitman & Co.

Credit: Courtesy: Albert Whitman & Co.

“Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas” by Gail Piernas-Davenport, illustrated by Marion Eldridge

Shanté Keys, excited for New Year’s Day, is ready to help herself to some of her grandma’s black-eyed peas, which are eaten for good luck. The only problem is, her grandma forgot to bring them to the family gathering. Shanté then asks her neighbors if they have any and she learns about their New Year’s traditions and customs. (Albert Whitman & Co., $7.99)

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"Miracle on 133rd Street" by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Courtesy of: Simon & Schuster)

Credit: Courtesy: Simon & Schuster

"Miracle on 133rd Street" by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Courtesy of: Simon & Schuster)
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"Miracle on 133rd Street" by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Courtesy of: Simon & Schuster)

Credit: Courtesy: Simon & Schuster

Credit: Courtesy: Simon & Schuster

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Jose and his family run into a major problem while preparing Christmas dinner: their roast won’t fit into the oven. The family goes door-to-door in their building looking for help. Unfortunately, their neighbors are busy getting their own holiday meals together. Luckily, Jose’s dad — papi —finds a solution that not only saves their dinner, but brings the building residents together as well. (Simon & Schuster, $17.99)

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"Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border" by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios

Credit: Courtesy: Macmillan Publishers

"Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border"  by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios
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"Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border" by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios

Credit: Courtesy: Macmillan Publishers

Credit: Courtesy: Macmillan Publishers

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios

Christmas is approaching and Maria and her family are heading to the California and Mexico border to see their abuela, or grandmother. The family gathers along the fence, where they exchange gifts and stories. Everything is going smoothly until Maria’s brother Juan, realizes his present won’t fit between the slats of the fence. That’s when Maria finds a solution that ends up bonding everyone on both sides of the border fence. (Macmillan Publishers, $17.99)

This list was compiled with the help of the staff at the Forsyth County Public Library and Fulton County Public Library.

Paradise Afshar is a Report for America corps member covering metro Atlanta’s immigrant communities. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Report for America are partnering to raise funds to place multilingual journalists on the staff in The AJC newsroom to improve our coverage of these communities. We hope you’ll help us by donating to this initiative.

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