Chapter Book Review: The Kwanzaa Contest

Kwanzaa ContestThe Kwanzaa Contest written by Miriam Moore and Penny Taylor

Lexile: 520L

From Goodreads: Ronald is determined to give his know-it-all older sister Latrice a run for the $50 prize when she comes home with the rules for a Kwanzaa contest at their community center, planning to win with a dance.

I like this series of books and this particular story makes a great addition to it. However, they’re a hard sell in my school. The kids they’re right for are looking for something that is a little more sophisticated. I might be able to get my second graders to pick these up toward the end of the year, but they don’t necessarily reflect the kids.

For my own school I wish we had more chapter books that featured black and African-American families that were middle to upper class. I haven’t come across a ton of them. The books in this series that I’ve read tend to feature black families that are missing a parent (or both) and they don’t have much money. That’s not to say I think my kids won’t ever read these, but if my African-American kids want to see themselves it won’t be in these books.

All that being said, The Kwanzaa Contest is a great story about Ronald who is constantly comparing himself to his sister (who is kind of a brat). He isn’t great in school, but he very talented when it comes to creating things. Particularly art. For the Kwanzaa contest at the local rec center he decides to carve an alligator and tell a story that speaks the symbolism and importance of the alligator in African lore.

Ronald is also dealing with the school bully who loves to tease him. Since his confidence is low he has a hard time standing up to the bully. His sister has no such trouble and wonders why Ronald lets him push him around. When it comes time for the contest Ronald finds a way to connect with the kid and realizes that maybe his teasing and meanness are a way to vent his own frustration and deflect attention away from himself.

I would certainly consider these books if you have readers that will read the I-Can-Read type series. The reading level on them is perfect for that second/third grade level. This book in particular is a great one for kids who have sibling rivalries and who may have talents that lay outside of school. I think there is a lot for kids to find in it and it isn’t overly long or taxing to read so you could hand it to your weaker, slower, and more reluctant readers.