12 Children’s Books About Africa

I am very excited to share this list of books about Africa with you. There are so many fantastic picture books set in Africa that it was challenging to choose just twelve. The booklist below includes stories set in a variety of African countries and in both villages and cities. Most importantly, this booklist includes wonderful stories to entertain children as well as broaden their views of the world.

The kids making Sweet Couscous from The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook by Deanna Cook.

I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite and Baba Wague Diakite. The story of a young girl from the United States who loses her tooth while visiting her family in Mali. In exchange for her tooth, the girl receives two chickens from the African tooth fairy. I Lost my Tooth in Africa is one of my four-year-old daughter’s very favorite books. Ages 3+

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me by Maya Angelou and Margaret Courtney-Clarke. Via Maya Angelou’s playful and poetic prose, a girl Thandi from the Ndebele tribe in South Africa introduces herself to readers. Margaret Courtney-Clarke’s photographs make Thandi’s world come alive; they include wonderful portraits of Thandi and other Ndebele women and children in traditional beads and bracelets as well as striking photographs of colorful painted houses. Ages 3+

Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and Catherine Stock. A young Malawi boy goes to great lengths to collect enough wire to make a galimoto, a toy vehicle. With industriousness and creativity, the young boy creates an impressive toy. Ages 4+


The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou, Ali Alalou, and Julie Klear Essakalli. As Nora waits for dinner to finish cooking, Nora’s grandfather tells her a story from his childhood in Morocco. One year when the rains did not come, grandfather tells her, his family had very little food. Each day, he would sit and wait for the butter man to come, hoping for a little butter to dip his bread into. When grandfather’s story and dinner are finished, Nora sits down to a delicious Moraccan meal with a new sense of gratitude. Ages 4+

Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin, Rich Chamberlain, and Julia Cairns. In this playful story, Mama Panya and her son set off to the market to purchase flour and a pepper to make pancakes for dinner. Along the way, the son invites one friend after another to join them for pancakes, ignoring Mama Panya’s warnings that there will not be enough food to feed everyone. The endnotes to this story contain information about village life in Kenya, an introduction to Kiswahili, and a recipe for Mama Panya’s pancakes. Ages 4+

Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch. Grace is a wonderful character — creative, adventurous, and thoughtful. In Boundless Grace, Grace is invited to visit her father, who she has not seen for years, in The Gambia. Boundless Grace is a compelling story about Grace trying to make sense of her family after meeting her father’s new wife and children. It includes memorable descriptions and illustrations of an African airport, compound, marketplace and more. Ages 4+

My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa. A humorous story about a young boy Mustafa whose father is teaching him to help sell beautiful Moraccan carpets to tourists. When Mustafa discovers a carpet with a hole in it, he convinces his father to let him keep it. Mustafa proudly throws the carpet over his head and heads to the market to show it to his friends. On his excursion through the marketplace, Mustafa unexpectedly attracts customers to his father’s shop. Ages 4+

What’s Cooking, Jamela? by Niki Daly. Jamela’s mother and grandma are preparing for Christmas dinner and give Jamela responsibility for caring for the Christmas chicken. However, while caring for the chicken, Jamela grows attached and decides to save the chicken from being eaten for Christmas dinner. What’s Cooking, Jamela? is an energetic and engaging story. Ages 4+

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter. A true story about a young girl from a Ugandan village who longs to go to school. When Beatrice’s family receives a goat, Beatrice begins earning money and eventually earns enough money to pay for school. My children enjoy reading about Beatrice caring for her goat, earning money, and attending school for the first time. Ages 4+

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire Nivola. One of four picture books recently written about the inspirational Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Wangari Maathai led efforts to reforest Kenya and was the founder of the Green Belt Movement. In Planting the Trees of Kenya, author Claire Nivola clearly and engagingly tells the story of Wangari’s life and explains the value of planting trees. For readers who would like more details about Wangari Maathai’s life, I would also recommend Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson and Sonia Sadler. Ages 4+

My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa Mollel and E. B. Lewis. A boy Saruni saves coins to purchase a new bicycle. While saving coins, Saruni practices riding his father’s bicycle and dreams of helping his mother carry goods to market on his new bicycle. My Rows and Piles of Coins describes how one Tanzanian family makes money by raising crops and selling them at the market. Ages 5+

Nii Kwei’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a Ghanaian City by Francis Provencal and Catherine McNamara. In a straightforward way, Nii Kwei’s Day describes Nii Kwei eating breakfast, going to school, watching marching band practice, playing soccer and board games, visiting the market, eating dinner and going to bed. Readers will notice the similarities between Nii Kwei’s life and their own. The photographs of Nii Kwei are very valuable for helping children imagine life in an African city. Ages 5+

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16 Responses to 12 Children’s Books About Africa

  1. Matilda wallin says:

    Hi, Have a look at these books by Atinuke: http://atinuke-author.weebly.com/ They are all wonderful!

  2. Denise Mistich says:

    I just commented, and I think it’s in moderation. I just have to add, I lost my crown in Africa. But I didn’t get a chicken. That looks like a wonderful book!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi – I just returned from Ethiopia. I lived there for 8 months as a volunteer librarian, working with school libraries, teacher’s colleges, and community libraries. If you would like to send books or other materials (crayons, markers, construction paper, etc), I would be happy to give you contact information. There is a community library in Jinka, Southern Ethiopia that is in dire need of materials.

    S. Lopez

    • Amy says:

      Two possible ideas: International Book Giving Day http://bookgivingday.com (to connect with people interested in giving books) and Pelican Post http://pelican-post.org (an organization which at least last year was looking for good schools to partner with in Africa).

    • Cynthia Calabrese says:

      We would love to send the requested items to Jinka! We have been to Ethiopia several times and will go back again. We have sponsored several libraries etc. in this country. Please send us more details as we are familiar with sending packages to Ethiopia.

  4. I just wanted to add some really nice books about and from Africa:

    The Cross Drums, Kwajo and the Brassman’s Secret and Sosu’s call by Meshack Asare Ghana
    The Big Yellow House by Christie Ade-Ajayi (Ghana)
    Mamy Wara and the Monster by Veronique Tadjo, Ivory Coast
    Fresh Fish by John Kilaka (Tanzania)
    The little blue boy by Fatou Keita (Ivory Coast)
    Ashraf of Africa by Ingrid Mennen (South Africa)
    Tshepo Mde is tall enough by Mhlobo Jadezweni (South Africa)

    and in French (I wish someone would translate them!):

    Le prince de la rue by Dominique Mwankumi (Kongo-Kinshasa)
    Le taxi-brousse de Papa Diop by Christian Epanya (Cameroon)
    Le boubou du Père Noël bu Fatou Keita (Ivory Coast)
    Je voudrais redevenir bébé by Alexandre Gbado (Benin)

  5. Have you heard of Yohannes Gebregeorgis in Ethiopia? He was one of the CNN Heros in 2008. His dedicated work has made sure that thousands of children in Ethiopia have acces to books. He is no longer working at Ethiopia Reads, but is know based in Mekelle and runs the Segenat Foundation:

    http://segenatfoundation.org/

    • Cynthia Calabrese says:

      Thank you for this information. I have made contact with Ethiopia Reads and sponsored several libraries this past year.

  6. I am interested in ordering books to send to schools in Ethiopia. Any help in directing me to another site such as this would be much appreciated!
    Thank you,
    Cynthia

  7. Ariel says:

    Yeah, Amy! I am so excited to read around the world with Bella! I just ordered a bunch of the books on your list from our library. Thanks for sharing this awesome resource with other parents!

  8. karensandler says:

    MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS by John Steptoe, was a big favorite of my kids (and me). It’s a folk tale set in Zimbabwe. http://tinyurl.com/3gml6ax

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