From a favorite author (Coretta Scott King Award for Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World, 1986), a much-needed story centering on the celebration of Kwanzaa, the seven-day celebration of the African-American heritage that extends from December 26 to New Year's. Chris Dodd's 11th birthday is overshadowed not only by falling on Christmas Day but by his family's concern over his father's lengthy unemployment (after being laid off by an electronics firm). At this difficult time, the extended family is a source of comfort--especially Uncle Ronald, a high school teacher; his infectious enthusiasm for celebrating Kwanzaa sustains Chris--and eventually helps the whole family work toward solutions of their problems. Plot is less important here than spirit, atmosphere, and characterization: Walter realistically portrays the Dodds' responses to their troubles, and neatly integrates the seven values of Kwanzaa into the way Chris learns to cope more constructively with their help--thus combining the values' relevance to daily living with an entertaining, uplifting story. A Swahili glossary listing the principles and symbols of Kwanzaa is included. A fine, useful book.