We “hear the drums echoing tonight” as we’re reading all about Africa! These books are filled with bright illustrations, strong role models, and adventurous stories that will help you celebrate and learn more about Africa. Through reading, you’ll be inspired by Africa’s history, people, and culture.
The Mystery of the Missing Lion - Staying with Aunty Bee at a safari camp in the Botswana countryside where a film crew is making a movie about a lion, nine-year-old Precious Ramotswe and her resourceful new friend Khumo use their detective skills to find the movie star lion when he goesmissing.
The Red Pencil - “Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.She collects both my hands in hers.”The Janjaweed attack without warning.If ever they come— run.” Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala— Amira’s one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey— on foot— to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind— and all kinds of possibilities. New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.
Beatrice's Goat - More than anything, Beatrice longs to be a schoolgirl. But in her small African village, only children who can afford uniforms and books can go to school. Beatrice knows that with six children to care for, her family is much too poor. But then Beatrice receives a wonderful gift from some people far away — a goat! Fat and sleek as a ripe mango, Mugisa (which means “luck”) gives milk that Beatrice can sell. With Mugisa’s help, it looks as if Beatrice’s dream may come true after all. Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter beautifully recount this true story about how one child, given the right tools, is able to lift her family out of poverty. Thanks to Heifer Project International — a charitable organization that donates livestock to poor communities around the world — other families like Beatrice’s will also have a chance to change their lives.
Never Forgotten - A 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. This gorgeous picture book by Newbery Honor winner Patricia C. McKissack and two-time Caldecott Medal-winning husband-and-wife team Leo and Diane Dillon is sure to become a treasured keepsake for African American families. Set in West Africa, this a lyrical story-in-verse is about a young black boy who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his father who is left behind to mourn the loss of his son. Here’s a beautiful, powerful, truly unforgettable story about family, memory, and freedom.
Want to see books about Blacks?
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.
Anansi the Spider - In trying to determine which of his six sons to reward for saving his life, Anansi the Spider is responsible for placing the moon in the sky.
Old Mikamba Had a Farm - This fabulous version of the classic nursery song “Old MacDonald” introduces children to a menagerie of African animals and their sounds. It is beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora, with her signature collage-style artwork. Old Mikamba had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. And on this farm he had . . . a giraffe, a baboon, and an elephant! Meet Old Mikamba, who watches over a wide variety of animals on his game farm in the plains of Africa. Children will discover a whole new set of fun animal sounds as they are invited to sing along and roar with the lions, bellow with the rhino, whinny with the zebras, honk with the wildebeests, and more! A wonderful introduction to African wildlife that is great fun to read aloud, this truly irresistible rendition of a beloved song includes a list of animal fun facts and gives children a huge variety of animal sounds to imitate as they pore over the detailed animals, landscapes and patterns in the stunning illustrations.
The Storyteller - In a time of drought in the Kingdom of Morocco, a storyteller and a boy weave a tale to thwart a Djinn and his sandstorm from destroying their city.
Starry Safari - -
Safari Animals (My First Slide-&-Play) - Eight slide-&-play pages feature puzzle pieces that never fall out and are safe for children of all ages. Toddlers will delight in discovering different animals and creating endless new designs. Go on safari with this slide-&-play book for toddlers!
Flip Flap Safari - What do you get if you cross an elephant with a lion? Why, an elephon. And a zebra with a crocodile? A zebodile, of course! A very silly but absolutely compelling book that will charm the whole family. What do you get if you cross an elephant with a lion? Why, an elephon. And a zebra with a crocodile? A zebodile, of course! A very silly but absolutely compelling book that will charm the whole family.
You Are My Baby: Safari - The nestled books show the baby animals matched with their parents as they describe the physical characteristics of the young.
The Elephant - In this, Jenni Desmond’s third nonfiction children’s book about one of the large, endangered animals of Earth, we join a young boy as he learns about The Elephant. From Africa to Asia, the elephant makes its home. Light on their feet, despite their great weight, these magnificent creatures appear light and graceful because they’re always walking on their tip-toes. They have excellent hearing and can detect the rumblings of other elephants from six miles away. And, just like humans being right handed or left handed, elephants can be right tusked or left tusked! The recipient of the 2016 New York Times Best Illustrated award for her book The Polar Bear, Desmond creates illustrations that are scientifically accurate, strikingly detailed, and beautifully rendered in collage, paint, and colored pencil.
Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest - From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a historical novel based on the life of Dr. Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist and environmentalist from Kenya. Wangari lives in the lush, green, land of rural Kenya where the soil is perfect for planting, the trees tower into the sky, and the streams are full of mysterious creatures. All day, she plays beneath her favorite fig tree, and at night she gathers around the fire with her family to listen to her mother’s stories. Then Wangari grows up and goes away to school, and things start changing at home. Farmers chop down the trees. Landslides bury the stream. The soil becomes overworked and dry, and nothing will grow. People go hungry. After all her studies, Dr. Wangari Maathai realizes there is a simple solution to these problems: plant a forest full of trees.
Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants - Elephants never forget During a drought in Tanzania, Grandma Elephant is in search of water for her herd. Little Calf follows along and mimics her grandmother at each stop on their journey. When Grandma leads them to a watering hole she recalls from years before, the elephants are overjoyed and Little Calf splashes about with her tender leader. Grandma’s persistence and powerful memory is something Little Calf will never forget. Based on true events. Sandra Markle’s acclaimed nonfiction writing takes on a more lyrical style alongside Fabricio VandenBroeck’s gorgeous illustrations making this story of animal behavior accessible for younger readers. Back matter includes further information about the phenomenon of a herd of elephants that survived a drought, as well as fascinating elephant facts.
Want to see books about science and nature?
B Is for Baby - Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank, creators of the award-winning Baby Goes to Market, pair up again for a bright and beautiful first book of words. B is for Baby. B is for Brother. B is for going to see Baba! One morning after breakfast, Baby’s big brother is getting ready to take the basket of bananas all the way to Baba’s bungalow in the next village. He’ll have to go along the bumpy road, past the baobab trees, birds, and butterflies, and all the way over the bridge. But what he doesn’t realize is that his very cute, very curious baby sibling has stowed away on his bicycle. Little ones learning about language will love sounding out the words in this playful, vibrantly illustrated story set in West Africa.
Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time - In this picture book companion to the bestseller A Long Walk to Water, a young South Sudanese girl goes on a journey that requires determination, persistence, and compassion. Young Nya takes little sister Akeer along on the two-hour walk to fetch water for the family. But Akeer becomes too ill to walk, and Nya faces the impossible: her sister and the full water vessel together are too heavy to carry. As she struggles, she discovers that if she manages to take one step, then another, she can reach home and Mama’s care. Bold, impressionistic paintings by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brian Pinkney evoke the dry, barren landscape and the tenderness between the two sisters. An afterword discusses the process of providing clean water in South Sudan, reducing waterborne illness.
Lions at Lunchtime - “Where are the lions?” Jack wonders when the Magic Tree House whisks him and his sister to the vast plains of Africa. Before he can find out, Annie starts to help hundreds of wildebeests cross a rushing river. Next they follow a honey of a bird and meet an awesome Masai warrior. Jack hopes any lions will just stay away. Jack is about to be very disappointed…
Jack and the Wild Life - After a wild plan by his parents left Jack stranded in the Caribbean, the Berenson family decided to lay out some rules. Jack’s mom and dad agreed they wouldn’t take so many risks. Jack agreed he’d try to live life without worrying quite so much. Then Jack’s parents thought up another get-rich-quick scheme. Now the family’s driving around Kenya. An animal attack is about to send Jack up a tree—alone, with limited supplies. As Jack attempts to outsmart a ferocious honey badger and keep away from an angry elephant, he’ll have plenty of time to wonder if the Berenson Family Decision-Making Rules did enough to keep him out of trouble.
Want to see books about action and adventure?
The Princess and the Pea - When a prince sets out to find a princess to marry, he soon discovers this is not a simple task. There is no shortage of so-called princesses, but how can he tell whether or not they are what they claim to be? Then one night a great storm rages, there comes a knock on the palace gate, and the prince’s life is never the same . . .
Rapunzel - Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora’s gorgeous collages breathe new life into this classic tale, capturing Rapunzel’s striking beauty and the lush African setting—a new home for this story—with wonderful details such as Rapunzel’s long dreadlocks and the prince’s noble steed—a zebra. Readers will delight in the vibrant illustrations, thrill at the appearances of the frightening sorceress, and chime in with the familiar line “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,” as they follow this well-loved tale.
The Fisherman and His Wife - Caldecott Honor winning artist Rachel Isadora brings another fabulous fairy tale to brilliant life with her stunning collages. The Brothers Grimm story of the kind fisherman who catches an enchanted fish, and his greedy wife who always wants more, is perfect for these give-me times. Rachel Isadora’s captivating collage-style artwork, featuring the African landscape and the increasingly turbulent ocean, provides a wonderful new backdrop for this classic story.
Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa - When Granny asks Pretty Salma to go to the market one day, she warns her not to talk to strangers. But cunning Mr. Dog tricks Salma, and before she knows it, he’s wearing her stripy ntama, her pretty white beads, and her yellow sandals. And he’s on his way to Granny’s house! African culture and flavor infuse this inventive retelling of a favorite fairy tale, and the vibrant lively illustrations bring it to life. The result is a story that combines new and old and spans cultures as successfully as it has spanned the centuries.
Want to see books about fairy tales?
Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cat - Since the year 1900, cheetah footprints quickly dwindled in African dirt as the species plummeted from more than 100,000 to fewer than 10,000. At the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s (CCF) African headquarters in Namibia, Laurie Marker and her team save these stunning, swift, and slender creatures from extinction. Since the organization’s start in 1990, they’ve rescued more than 900 cheetahs, most of whom have been returned to the wild. But this arduous challenge continues. For most African livestock farmers, cheetahs are the last thing they want to see on their properties. In the 1980s, as many as 19 cheetahs per farmer died each year. Cheetahs were considered vermin—but, in learning more about this magnificent species, we know this is far from true. Today, CCF acts as a liaison between the farmers and the cheetahs, in order to promote cohabitation in an ecosystem that cannot thrive without the existence of the precious and predatory cheetah. On a wild ride through the African wilderness—sometimes sniffing out scents left in the dirt—Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop join CCF in studying the cheetah’s ecological, genetic, and behavioral patterns in order to chase down the fastest animal on land and save the species—before it is too late.
Let's Explore... Safari - In Let’s Explore Safari, things are about to get really wild! Join your guides on a jeep safari in Africa, and keep your eyes peeled for some incredible animals. Spot the big five, discover who’s drinking at the waterhole, find out about some true animal superheroes and loads more. An African adventure awaits. Let’s explore!
Want to see books about big cats (lions, tigers, leopard, etc.)?
Sadiq and the Desert Star - Sadiq’s father is going on a business trip, but before he goes he tells Sadiq a story of the Desert Star, which fits in perfectly with Sadiq’s third grade class field trip to the planetarium, and inspires Sadiq to build a simple telescope to study the stars when his father returns.
Tug of War - Financial Times: ‘gorgeously vibrant’ Tortoise is on the hunt for a friend, but only encounters huge Elephant and Hippo, who are mean about his small size and wrinkly skin. But although Tortoise isn’t big, he is certainly brainy! He sets out to show Elephant and Hippo that biggest doesn’t mean best by challenging them to a tug of war. They sneeringly accept… but little do they know that they have really agreed to fight each other! A funny, heartwarming retelling of this well-known folk tale about brains vs brawn with beautiful, stylish illustrations. A special book that teaches that wit and wisdom are more important than size and physical strength, and friendship is what matters most.
Handa's Noisy Night - A cast of nocturnal creatures are the surprise stars in a funny tale about nighttime fears, set in southwest Kenya. The latest tale in the best-selling Handa series. When Handa sleeps over at her friend Akeyo’s house, she hears lots of strange sounds in the night: snorts, chattering, rattling, squeaks, slurps, wails, a big thud. Akeyo says it’s just her family, laughing, talking, playing music, riding a bike, drinking their bedtime milk. Or maybe the baby crying. Or a door slamming. But is she right? Young readers will be happy to be in on the joke as a sequence of animals pay a visit on the facing pages: a pig, fox, porcupine, bat, pangolin, bush baby, owl, and woodpecker. Illustrated in luminous colors, Eileen Brown’s humorous take on things that go bump in the night includes endpapers picturing and naming all the nocturnal creatures.
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms - Even a life on the untamed plains of Africa can’t prepare Wilhelmina for the wilds of an English boarding school in this “gripping, magical, and heartwarming tale of resilience, friendship, and hope” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Wilhelmina Silver’s world is golden. Living half-wild on an African farm with her horse, her monkey, and her best friend, every day is beautiful. But when her home is sold and Will is sent away to boarding school in England, the world becomes impossibly difficult. Lions and hyenas are nothing compared to packs of vicious schoolgirls. Where can a girl run to in London? And will she have the courage to survive? From the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure,” comes an utterly beautiful story that’s “a treasure of a book” (VOYA).
Want to see books about friendship?
Anna Hibiscus - Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. She lives with her whole family in a wonderful house. There is always somebody to laugh or play with. She loves to splash in the sea with her cousins and have parties with her aunties. But more than anything else in the world, Anna Hibiscus would love to see snow.
My Rows and Piles of Coins - “I emptied my secret money box, arranged the coins in piles and the piles in rows . . .” The market is full of wonderful things, but Saruni is saving his precious coins for a red and blue bicycle. How happy he will be when he can help his mother carry heavy loads to market on his very own bicycle—and how disappointed he is to discover that he hasn’t saved nearly enough! Determination and generosity are at the heart of this satisfying tale set in Tanzania and illustrated with glowing watercolors that capture the warmth of Saruni’s family and the excitement of market day.
My Rows and Piles of Coins - “I emptied my secret money box, arranged the coins in piles and the piles in rows . . .” The market is full of wonderful things, but Saruni is saving his precious coins for a red and blue bicycle. How happy he will be when he can help his mother carry heavy loads to market on his very own bicycle—and how disappointed he is to discover that he hasn’t saved nearly enough! Determination and generosity are at the heart of this satisfying tale, set in Tanzania and illustrated with glowing watercolors that capture the warmth of Saruni’s family and the excitement of market day.
Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me - Mosquitoes don’t bite Nala Simiyu. It’s part of who she is, like being a half-Kenyan seventh-grader whose mother is in a wheelchair. But when a schoolmate’s father—who happens to head up a large drug company—learns of Nala’s special power, the excitement begins. Nala has the chance to travel to Kenya to investigate mosquitoes’ reactions to her father’s family. All goes well until a man heartbroken by his daughter’s death from malaria kidnaps Nala. In the midst of a realistic adventure story, this book will introduce young readers to such dilemmas as health disparities, subtle racism, and who owns biological information. Brave, fallible, compassionate and spirited, Nala is a strongly relatable character in a loving, imperfect family.
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan - Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away. Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern. You, an object. An object to sell. In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers”, Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen.
Fire on the Mountain - A slave accepts his master’s bet to spend a cold and lonely evening in the mountains, but when he returns, the master does not set him free and so the boy must outwit him by using the master’s own tricks. Reprint.
I, Too, Am America - Winner of the Coretta Scott King illustrator award, I, Too, Am America blends the poetic wisdom of Langston Hughes with visionary illustrations from Bryan Collier in this inspirational picture book that carries the promise of equality. I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from Barack Obama illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem “I, Too,” creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences. This picture book of Langston Hughes’s celebrated poem, “I, Too, Am America,” is also a Common Core Text Exemplar for Poetry.
The Everlasting Embrace - Each morning as the sun brightens the West African sky, mother and child prepare to start their day. They spend it bound together, the child riding on the mother’s back watching their world go past. Pounding millet, drawing water from the well, visiting friends, shopping at the outdoor market—days are shared in perfect step with one another. And even when the child grows big enough to go off and explore their world, the everlasting embrace endures. Illustrated with E.B. Lewis’s stunning watercolors that bring to life the land and people of Mali, Gabrielle Emanuel’s tender story celebrates the universal bond between mother and child.
The Story of Kwanzaa - It’s Kwanzaa-time! Light the candles on the kinara! Fly the bendera, and tell stories from Africa! The festival of Kwanzaa was originated by Dr. Maulana Karenga to honor the customs and history of African Americans. The seven principles of Kwanzaa, called the Nguzo Saba, serve to remind African Americans of the struggles of the past, and also focus on present-day achievements and goals for the future. Activities at the end of the book include making your own cow-tail switch and baking benne cakes.
Seven Spools of Thread - In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars.
My First Kwanzaa Book - Introduces Kwanzaa, the holiday in which Afro-Americans celebrate their cultural heritage.
Want to see books about Kwanzaa?
Rhino in the House - “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.”—
Grandad Mandela - Two great-grandchildren ask their grandmother 15 questions about the man they remember as Grandad, and the world remembers as Nelson Mandela, the global icon of peace and forgiveness who spent 27 years in prison. They learn that he was a freedom fighter who put down his weapons for the sake of peace, and who then became the President of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, and realise that they can continue his legacy in the world today. Seen through a child’s perspective, and authored jointly by his great-grandchildren and daughter, this amazing story is told as never before to celebrate what would have been Nelson’s Mandela 100th birthday.
Nelson Mandela - One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country’s capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans. Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.
Gervelie's Journey: A Refugee Diary - Gervelie was born in the Republic of the Congo in 1995. This is the true story of her flight from her home in Africa to seek refuge in the United Kingdom and is told in her words. It is the honest and heartrending story of a family torn apart by war and their courageous decision to seek a life of peace in the West. Other titles in the series: Hamzat’s Journey, Mohammed’s Journey, Meltem’s Journey This is the first book in an accalaimed series highlighting the true stories of refugee children. Chosen as a Scholastic Book of the Year and as an Outstanding International Book by USBBY. CLICK HERE
Want to see books about history?