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The Best Kenya Kids Books

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Sulwe
Written by & illustrated by Vashti Harrison and Lupita Nyong'o
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

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Mama Panya's Pancakes
Written by Mary Chamberlin and Rich Chamberlin & illustrated by Julia Cairns
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

How many people did we invite for pancakes tonight? Adika, skipping two steps ahead, sang his reply, All of our friends, Mama.

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When Stars Are Scattered
Written by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson & illustrated by Iman Geddy and Victoria Jamieson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.

Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

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Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace
Written by Jen Johnson & illustrated by Sonia Sadler and Jen Johnson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-10

As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time.

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Rhino in the House
Written & illustrated by Daniel Kirk
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“This is a nonfiction picture book for young children. It tells the true story of Anna Merz, a wildlife protector in Africa, and Samia, a black rhinoceros she saved after it was abandoned by its mother.”—

Lila and the Secret of Rain book
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For You Are a Kenyan Child book
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The Wooden Camel book
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The Wild Beast book
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  • Lila and the Secret of Rain - With the sun baking their Kenyan village for months and no rain sight, Lila learns the trick for making the rains come from her wise grandfather and so heads out to confront the sky in the hopes of saving everyone and everything in the land she loves.

  • For You Are a Kenyan Child - From rooster crow to bedtime, a Kenyan boy plays and visits neighbors all through his village, even though he is supposed to be watching his grandfather’s cows.

  • The Wooden Camel - Etabo dreams of being a camel racer. One day he might even beat his older brother when they race. But with the price of water rising, Etabo’s father must sell the camels, and his siblings must find work. What will Etabo do now? From acclaimed Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu and Italian illustrator Manuela Adreani, this story of love and hope centers on the inspiring Turkana people of northwest Kenya. Told with gentleness and humor, it is a universal story about keeping one’s dreams alive.

  • The Wild Beast - Inspired by a story told to the author while on safari in 2015, The Wild Beast describes the creation of one of Africa’s most unusual animals, the wildebeest. According to oral tradition, the Creator built this unique beast out of leftover parts from other magnificent animals found on the continent. Horns from buffalos and stripes meant for zebras.Tails from giraffes and bumps meant for camels.This creative retelling will introduce little ones to a story rich in both imagery and in lesson: Take what you need to live. Take no more. Waste nothing.

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Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World
Written by Jen Johnson & illustrated by Sonia Sadler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-10

As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her -from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time. Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Engaging narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of the land and of women’s rights.

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Handa's Hen
Written by Eileen Browne
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Every morning, Handa, a young girl from the Luo tribe, feeds breakfast to Mondi, her grandma’s black hen. This morning, however, Mondi is nowhere to be seen. So Handa and her friend Akeyo set off on a hunt, coming upon two fluttery butterflies, three stripy mice, four little lizards, five beautiful sunbirds, and many more intriguing creatures. But where could Mondi be? Is that a faint cheeping they hear under the bush? Might Mondi have a surprise in store (or maybe even ten of them)? Luminous colors depict a lush natural setting in this gentle, repetitive story perfect for reading aloud.

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