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Africa: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about Africa?

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.

Top 10 Books About Africa

#1
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An African Alphabet
Written by Eric Walters & illustrated by Sue Todd
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
An African Alphabet is a vibrant ABC book that introduces babies and toddlers to the unique variety of animals found in Africa. An alphabet for all ages, the stunning linocut artwork brings an uncommon selection of critters to life in this lively concept book. From aardvark to zebra and all that's in between, little ones will love learning their alphabet with these colorful creatures.
#2
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Mama Panya's Pancakes
Written by Mary Chamberlin and Rich Chamberlin & illustrated by Julia Cairns
Thoughts from The Goodfather
This story provides a delightful glimpse into a young African boy's big, generous heart. Adika is sure Mama Panya can make enough pancakes to share with everyone he is inviting to share their meal. Mama Panya is not so sure, but she is willing to go without if necessary. The story is heartwarming, and the illustrations are bright and exciting.
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.
#3
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Textures
Written & illustrated by Katie Wilson
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4
Soft. Rough. Bumpy. Smooth. Textures are all around us and all through this innovative board book. Latest in the Montessori inspired Discovery Concepts series, Textures takes us on an African safari where we also learn about safari animals in this cross-concept enhanced board book. Caregivers will enjoy the tactile teaching and all children will love the discovery in Textures.
#4
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Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion
Written & illustrated by Alex T. Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Little Red sets off to visit her auntie who is poorly. She walks under the giraffes, over the sleepy crocodiles, past the enormous elephants and the chattering monkeys. Then a Very Hungry Lion approaches Little Red, wanting to gobble her up. But despite all the cunning plans by Lion, Little Red outsmarts him and soon has him saying sorry and eating doughnuts instead.
#5
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We All Went on Safari
Written by Laurie Krebs & illustrated by Julie Cairns
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Follows a Tanzanian family through the African grasslands as they count the animals they see, from one leopard to 10 elephants, and includes information about Tanzania and Swahili names and numbers. Reprint.
#6
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Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
Written & illustrated by John Steptoe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Mufaro was a happy man. Everyone agreed that his two daughters were very beautiful. Nyasha was kind and considerate as well as beautiful, but everyone -- except Mufaro -- knew that Manyara was selfish, badtempered, and spoiled. When the king decided to take a wife and invited "The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land" to appear before him, Mufaro declared proudly that only the king could choose between Nyasha and Manyara. Manyara, of course, didn't agree, and set out to make certain that she would be chosen. John Steptoe has created a memorable modem fable of pride going before a fall, in keeping with the moral of the folktale that was his inspiration. He has illustrated it with stunning paintings that glow with the beauty, warmth, and internal vision of the land and people of his ancestors.
#7
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Wangari's Trees of Peace
Written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
This true story is inspiring. Wangari dares to do what hasn't ever been done and inspires women to help her plant trees in Kenya. Parents might want to know that this story does mention about how she stood in front of trees to protect them from being cut down, and the government men beat her and put her in jail.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
A paperback picture book based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something--and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans . . . This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman's passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. Includes an author's note.
#8
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The Water Princess
Written by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel & illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Based on supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood, a young girl dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her African village With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is a beautiful land. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village. And try as she might, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well. Instead of a crown, she wears a heavy pot on her head to collect the water. After the voyage home, after boiling the water to drink and clean with, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own. Inspired by the childhood of African–born model Georgie Badiel, acclaimed author Susan Verde and award-winning author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have come together to tell this moving story. As a child in Burkina Faso, Georgie and the other girls in her village had to walk for miles each day to collect water. This vibrant, engaging picture book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water.
#9
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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Thoughts from Mr. Staccato
A story about a boy who reads a book and learns how to build a windmill to bring water from the earth and help save his family and friends in the midst of a drought.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8
Japanese edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. True story of a boy growing up in an improvised, desolate central Africa. The 14 year old William Kamkwamba learned about electrical windmills at a small library, and after weeks of foraging for junk parts, he did the incredible. In Japanese. Distributed by Tsai Fong Books, Inc.
#10
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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.
Table of Contents
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Books About Africa and Blacks

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Mama Panya's Pancakes
Written by Mary Chamberlin and Rich Chamberlin & illustrated by Julia Cairns
Thoughts from The Goodfather
This story provides a delightful glimpse into a young African boy's big, generous heart. Adika is sure Mama Panya can make enough pancakes to share with everyone he is inviting to share their meal. Mama Panya is not so sure, but she is willing to go without if necessary. The story is heartwarming, and the illustrations are bright and exciting.
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.
Add to list
The Water Princess
Written by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel & illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Based on supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood, a young girl dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her African village With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is a beautiful land. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village. And try as she might, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well. Instead of a crown, she wears a heavy pot on her head to collect the water. After the voyage home, after boiling the water to drink and clean with, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own. Inspired by the childhood of African–born model Georgie Badiel, acclaimed author Susan Verde and award-winning author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have come together to tell this moving story. As a child in Burkina Faso, Georgie and the other girls in her village had to walk for miles each day to collect water. This vibrant, engaging picture book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water.
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A Long Walk to Water
Written & illustrated by Linda Sue Park
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-12
The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.
Honorable Mentions
The Mystery of the Missing Lion book
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The Red Pencil book
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Beatrice's Goat book
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Never Forgotten book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

Books About Africa and Culture

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An African Alphabet
Written by Eric Walters & illustrated by Sue Todd
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
An African Alphabet is a vibrant ABC book that introduces babies and toddlers to the unique variety of animals found in Africa. An alphabet for all ages, the stunning linocut artwork brings an uncommon selection of critters to life in this lively concept book. From aardvark to zebra and all that's in between, little ones will love learning their alphabet with these colorful creatures.
Add to list
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Thoughts from Mr. Staccato
A story about a boy who reads a book and learns how to build a windmill to bring water from the earth and help save his family and friends in the midst of a drought.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8
Japanese edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. True story of a boy growing up in an improvised, desolate central Africa. The 14 year old William Kamkwamba learned about electrical windmills at a small library, and after weeks of foraging for junk parts, he did the incredible. In Japanese. Distributed by Tsai Fong Books, Inc.
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For You Are a Kenyan Child
Written by Kelly Cunnane & illustrated by Ana Juan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
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.
Honorable Mentions
The Wild Beast book
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Anansi the Spider book
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Old Mikamba Had a Farm book
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The Storyteller book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Want to see 83 more books about Africa and culture ?

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Books About Africa and Safari

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Textures
Written & illustrated by Katie Wilson
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4
Soft. Rough. Bumpy. Smooth. Textures are all around us and all through this innovative board book. Latest in the Montessori inspired Discovery Concepts series, Textures takes us on an African safari where we also learn about safari animals in this cross-concept enhanced board book. Caregivers will enjoy the tactile teaching and all children will love the discovery in Textures.
Add to list
We All Went on Safari
Written by Laurie Krebs & illustrated by Julie Cairns
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Follows a Tanzanian family through the African grasslands as they count the animals they see, from one leopard to 10 elephants, and includes information about Tanzania and Swahili names and numbers. Reprint.
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Safari, So Good!
Written by Bonnie Worth & illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Visiting Africa with the Cat in the Hat, Nick and Sally meet an amazing variety of animals including giant cats, elephants and giraffes while learning an array of interesting facts. TV tie-in.
Honorable Mentions
Starry Safari book
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Safari Animals (My First Slide-&-Play) book
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Flip Flap Safari book
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You Are My Baby: Safari book
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  1. Starry Safari - Mom of Boys -

    We really enjoyed this book. It has great rhymes. It isn't a usual story that tells you what you will see on a safari, but takes you on an adventure in this little boys jeep as he drives through his adventure.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Want to see 16 more books about Africa and Safari ?

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Books About Africa and Science And Nature

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Wangari's Trees of Peace
Written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
This true story is inspiring. Wangari dares to do what hasn't ever been done and inspires women to help her plant trees in Kenya. Parents might want to know that this story does mention about how she stood in front of trees to protect them from being cut down, and the government men beat her and put her in jail.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
A paperback picture book based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something--and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans . . . This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman's passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. Includes an author's note.
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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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Face to Face With Cheetahs (Face to Face with Animals)
Written & illustrated by Chris Johns and Elizabeth Carney
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
Chris Johns, Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic magazine, brings you face to face with a family of cheetahs. The story begins in Okavango Delta in Botswana—as the cheetah mother hunts her prey and the photographer tracks the elusive cat. After watching the family for four months, he is rewarded when a cheetah cub comes up and actually licks his hand—one of the most profound moments of his life. But the encounter brings a responsibility: to help save these endangered creatures and protect their habitat from one of their biggest threats, man. As Africa’s most endangered cat, the cheetah is in a race for survival. But the book gives us hope, too, detailing practical ways we can all help to protect them and ensure they have a future in the wild. Stunning photographs, action-packed stories, and thorough research complete the picture of these cagey cats.
Honorable Mentions
The Elephant book
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Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest book
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Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Books About Africa and Action And Adventure

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Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion
Written & illustrated by Alex T. Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Little Red sets off to visit her auntie who is poorly. She walks under the giraffes, over the sleepy crocodiles, past the enormous elephants and the chattering monkeys. Then a Very Hungry Lion approaches Little Red, wanting to gobble her up. But despite all the cunning plans by Lion, Little Red outsmarts him and soon has him saying sorry and eating doughnuts instead.
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Good Morning, Gorillas
Written by Mary Pope Osborne & illustrated by Sal Murdocca
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
The magic tree house takes Jack and Annie to an African rainforest, where the siblings encounter gorillas and learn to communicate with them.
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Bravelands #4: Shifting Shadows
Written by Erin Hunter
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Set in the African savannah and told from three different animals’ points of view, Bravelands will thrill readers who love Spirit Animals and Wings of Fire, as well as the fans who’ve made Erin Hunter a #1 nationally bestselling phenomenon. A false leader has been destroyed—but Bravelands is still in grave danger. Stinger’s death should have brought peace to the land; but no Great Parent has stepped forward, and now the fate of Bravelands hangs in the balance. With a mysterious threat lurking in their midst, all members of the Great Herd must find the strength to walk the right path or risk the end of Bravelands forever.
Honorable Mentions
B Is for Baby book
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Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time book
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Lions at Lunchtime book
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Jack and the Wild Life book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

Books About Africa and Fairy Tales

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Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
Written & illustrated by John Steptoe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Mufaro was a happy man. Everyone agreed that his two daughters were very beautiful. Nyasha was kind and considerate as well as beautiful, but everyone -- except Mufaro -- knew that Manyara was selfish, badtempered, and spoiled. When the king decided to take a wife and invited "The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land" to appear before him, Mufaro declared proudly that only the king could choose between Nyasha and Manyara. Manyara, of course, didn't agree, and set out to make certain that she would be chosen. John Steptoe has created a memorable modem fable of pride going before a fall, in keeping with the moral of the folktale that was his inspiration. He has illustrated it with stunning paintings that glow with the beauty, warmth, and internal vision of the land and people of his ancestors.
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The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Written & illustrated by Rachel Isadora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
A Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator gives this classic fairy tale a brand-new setting! Night after night, the twelve princesses mysteriously wear out their shoes. But how? The king promises a great reward to any man who can solve the mystery. Rachel Isadora has revitalized and reimagined this well-loved Brothers Grimm fairytale by bringing the story of the twelve princesses to Africa. The unique presentation of this classic tale is sure to enchant readers with its vibrant imagery.
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Hansel and Gretel
Written & illustrated by Rachel Isadora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8
Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora gives readers a stunning new interpretation of this classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, setting the infamous witch's cottage deep in a lush African forest. Hansel and Gretel's plight feels all the more threatening as they're plunged into the thick, dark jungle of Isadora's rich collages.
Honorable Mentions
The Princess and the Pea book
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Rapunzel book
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The Fisherman and His Wife book
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Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa book
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  1. 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 . . .

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Books About Africa and Social Themes

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The White Giraffe
Written by Lauren St John
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
After a fire kills her parents, eleven-year-old Martine must leave England to live with her grandmother on a wildlife game reserve in South Africa, where she befriends a mythical white giraffe.
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Wherever I Go
Written by Mary Wagley Copp & illustrated by Munir D. Mohammed
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
A hopeful and timely picture book about a spirited little girl living in a refugee camp. Of all her friends, Abia has been at the Shimelba Refugee Camp the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. Papa says that’s too long and they need a forever home. Until then, though, Abia has something important to do. Be a queen. Sometimes she’s a noisy queen, banging on her drum as she and Mama wait in the long line for rice to cook for dinner. Sometimes she’s a quiet queen, cuddling her baby cousin to sleep while Auntie is away collecting firewood. And sometimes, when Papa talks hopefully of their future, forever home, Abia is a little nervous. Forever homes are in strange and faraway places—will she still be a queen? Filled with hope, love, and respect, Wherever I Go is a timely tribute to the strength and courage of refugees around the world.
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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.
Honorable Mentions
Ariba book
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One Shadow on the Wall book
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Juliane's Story book
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As Big as the Sky book
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  1. Ariba - Marcus’ joy over a new pair of shoes reminds his grandfather of an old story about a boy named Ariba and his adventure-loving shoes. Every time Ariba put his shoes on, something crazy would happen. Once they even took him climbing to the peak of the yellow mountain! But one day, Ariba decides he’s going to move from his small village to the city on the other side of the mountains. When he arrives, he buys all new things—including a new pair of shoes. His new life has no room for the old pair. And yet, wouldn’t you know it? No matter what he does, the shoes keep finding their way back to him…

  2. One Shadow on the Wall - An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this “stirring” (School Library Journal) debut novel laced with magical realism. Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost as soon as they are orphaned, that promise seems impossible to keep. With an aunt from the big city ready to separate him and his sisters as soon as she arrives, and a gang of boys from a nearby village wanting everything he has—including his spirit—Mor is tested in ways he never imagined. With only the hot summer months to prove himself, Mor must face a choice. Does he listen to his father and keep his heart true, but risk breaking his promise through failure? Or is it easier to just join the Danka Boys, whom despite their maliciousness are at least loyal to their own? One Shadow on the Wall is about love and loss, family and friendship, and creating your own future—even when it’s hard to do.

  3. Juliane's Story - This is the real-life story of 12-year-old refugee Juliane. At 3 years old, Juliane was separated from her mother due to the violence in her country of Zimbabwe. Told in Juliane’s own words, the story tells of her fear and isolation growing up in an orphanage, how she was reunited with her mother, and how the two of them fled to another country to establish a new life together.

  4. As Big as the Sky - What happens when a brother and sister who share a love as big as the sky must separate? This heartwarming story set in an African village shows that with a little generosity, there’s always a way to come together. In a small African village in Malawi, Prisca and her brother Caleb work together and play together, chasing each other as fast as they can. But when Caleb has to leave home to attend a good school, Prisca misses him terribly. Hoping to earn enough money to visit him, Prisca begs a local peddler to sell her crafts—but no one buys what she’s made. However, thanks to Prisca’s kindness and compassion, her dreams of reuniting with Caleb just may come true.

Books About Africa and Big Cats (lions, Tigers, Leopard, Etc.)

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The Magic Bojabi Tree
Written by Dianne Hofmeyr & illustrated by Piet Grobler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Python has wrapped himself around the melon/mango/pomegranate tree with its delicious fruit, and he won't share the fruit unless the animals can tell him the correct name of the tree. Elephant, Monkey and Zebra each in turn visit Lion, who alone knows the name of the tree. But every time, the animals forget the name on the journey back to the tree. Then Tortoise, the slowest, smallest animal goes to Lion - and sings a special song to remind him of the name. It is the Bojabi Tree! Python unwraps himself from the trunk, and all the animals share a feast.
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The Safari Set
Written & illustrated by Madeline Rogers
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Teach your children about the animals of the Savannah with this fun and educational board book, part of a series that explores the natural world. Its companion titles, The Jungle Crew and The Polar Pack, focus on the rainforest and polar regions. The Safari Set features five animals – a hippo, giraffe, elephant, lion and zebra – with delightful rhyming text and gorgeous illustrations which young children will find hugely appealing and adults will love to share with them. There are two spreads dedicated to each animal as well as a small introduction and summary page. The book also features some fun facts about each animal on the inside back cover.
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How it Was With Dooms
Written by Xan Hopcraft & illustrated by Carol Cawthra Hopcraft
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Ten-year-old Xan tells about the life of Dooms, the cheetah which became his pet and lived with his family in Kenya, Africa.
Honorable Mentions
Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cat  book
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Let's Explore... Safari book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

Books About Africa and Friendship

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Home of the Brave
Written by Katherine Applegate
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14
A man I helped to settle here taught me a saying from Africa. I'll bet you would like it: A cow is God with a wet nose. Kek comes from Africa where he lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived. Now she's missing, and Kek has been sent to a new home. In America, he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter—cold and unkind. But slowly he makes friends: a girl in foster care, an old woman with a rundown farm, and a sweet, sad cow that reminds Kek of home. As he waits for word of his mother's fate, Kek weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.
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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
Written & illustrated by Kwame Mbalia
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia's epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods. Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he's going to spend on his grandparents' farm in Alabama, where he's being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie's notebook. Tristan chases after it--is that a doll?--and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature's hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
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Gorilla Dawn
Written & illustrated by Gill Lewis
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13
"It is time, Imara. Imara left the shadows and stepped into the pool of moonlight, listening to the demon as he paced inside her mind. It is time, Imara. The men are waiting for you. They are waiting for your power to protect them. She knelt down and poured the contents of her water bottle into the ashes of last night’s fire, stirring with her fingers, working the mixture into a gritty paste. All around her, the forest was dark and still, wrapped in silence. Nothing moved. High above in the canopy, a pale mist clung to the leaves. Thin tendrils of vapor hung in the air, as if the trees were holding their breath, waiting for the dawn. The Black Mamba and his men were folded into the deep moon-shadows. Only the cold light catching the metal of their rifles told they were not of this place. Come on, Imara, hissed the demon. They’re watching you. Imara’s hands hovered over the ash paste and trembled. Stupid girl. Don’t show your fear. You know what they’ll do if they see your fear. Imara breathed in deeply, filling her lungs with the cool night air. She tried to block her mind from the purpose of her task. She hummed softly, trying to ignore the demon and scooped the ash paste into her hand. Hurry, Imara. They want to see their spirit child."
Honorable Mentions
Sadiq and the Desert Star book
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Tug of War book
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Handa's Noisy Night book
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Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

Books About Africa and Family

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Baby Goes to Market
Written by Atinuke & illustrated by Angela Brooksbank and Atinuke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5
Join Baby and his doting mama at a bustling southwest Nigerian marketplace for a bright, bouncy read-aloud offering a gentle introduction to numbers. Market is very crowded. Mama is very busy. Baby is very curious. When Baby and Mama go to the market, Baby is so adorable that the banana seller gives him six bananas. Baby eats one and puts five in the basket, but Mama doesn't notice. As Mama and Baby wend their way through the stalls, cheeky Baby collects five oranges, four biscuits, three ears of sweet corn, two pieces of coconut . . . until Mama notices that her basket is getting very heavy! Poor Baby, she thinks, he must be very hungry by now! Rhythmic language, visual humor, and a bounty of delectable food make this a tale that is sure to whet little appetites for story time.
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Grandpa Cacao
Written & illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
This beautifully illustrated story connects past and present as a girl bakes a chocolate cake with her father and learns about her grandfather harvesting cacao beans in West Africa. Chocolate is the perfect treat, everywhere! As a little girl and her father bake her birthday cake together, Daddy tells the story of her Grandpa Cacao, a farmer from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In a land where elephants roam and the air is hot and damp, Grandpa Cacao worked in his village to harvest cacao, the most important ingredient in chocolate. "Chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao," Daddy says. "We can only enjoy chocolate treats thanks to farmers like him." Once the cake is baked, it's ready to eat, but this isn't her only birthday present. There's a special surprise waiting at the front door . . .
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Circle Unbroken
Written by Margot Theis Raven & illustrated by E. B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
As she teaches her granddaughter to sew a traditional sweetgrass basket, a grandmother weaves a story, going back generations to her grandfather's village in faraway Africa. There, as a boy, he learned to make baskets so tightly woven they could hold the rain. Even after being stolen away to a slave ship bound for America, he remembers what he learned and passes these memories on to his children - as they do theirs.
Honorable Mentions
Anna Hibiscus book
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My Rows and Piles of Coins book
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My Rows and Piles of Coins book
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Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Want to see 15 more books about Africa and family ?

How about books about family?

Books About Africa and African Americans

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A Story, a Story
Written & illustrated by Gail E. Haley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Winner of the Caldecott Medal Once, all the stories in the world belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. He kept them in a box beside his throne. But Ananse, the Spider man, wanted them -- and caught three sly creatures to get them. This story of how we got our own stories to tell is adapted from an African folktale.
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Ashanti to Zulu
Written by Margaret Musgrove & illustrated by Diane Dillon and Leo Dillon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Artists Leo and Diane Dillon won their second consecutive Caldecott Medal for this stunning ABC of African culture. "Another virtuoso performance. . . . Such an astute blend of aesthetics and information is admirable, the child's eye will be rewarded many times over."--Booklist. ALA Notable Book; Caldecott Medal.
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Light a Candle
Written by Godfrey Nkongolo and Eric Walters & illustrated by Eva Campbell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8
Co-written by Eric Walters and Godfrey Nkongolo, Light a Candle weaves non- fiction with fiction to tell the story of a boy coming of age in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro and his father, the chief of their tribe. The boy climbs the mountain against his father’s wishes to fulfill a request of the country’s first leader, Julius Nyerere, to light a candle on the top of the mountain and unify the mainland of Tanganyika and the islands of Zanzibar as one country, the United Republic of Tanzania.
Honorable Mentions
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan book
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Fire on the Mountain book
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I, Too, Am America book
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The Everlasting Embrace book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Books About Africa and Kwanzaa

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Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa
Written by Donna L. Washington & illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom
This was a really cute story about Kwanzaa and about the community it creates, particularly when you are searching to help others. The element of intergenerational bonds is also sweet and uplifting and perfect for the holiday season.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Li'l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won't celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu. Li'l Rabbit knows what to do! He'll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway. He looks under a pile of logs, in the field, and in the pond and along the way meets Groundhog, Momma Field Mouse, and the frogs—but he doesn't find anything for Granna Rabbit. Maybe I'm just too little to help Granna Rabbit celebrate Kwanzaa, Li'l Rabbit thinks. Or maybe he just needs a little help from his family and friends. Inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster character from the African-American folklore tradition, the story of Li'l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others.
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Kevin's Kwanzaa
Written by Lisa Bullard & illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
This book does a great job of simply explaining Kwanzaa through they eyes of a boy. I like that the book has extra information and facts to go along with the story, as well as a glossary and instructions to make a Kwanzaa craft at the end of the book.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7
Kevin is excited for his turn to light the candles on the last night of Kwanzaa. As he narrates through the week of Kwanzaa, readers learn about the origins, purpose, and rituals of this holiday.
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My First Kwanzaa
Written & illustrated by Karen Katz
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
This book is laid out simply with the words of Kwanzaa, definitions, and telling how they apply. The illustrations are cute and the book is informative!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5
A simple way to get acquainted with Kwanzaa. "Hooray! Hooray! It's time to get ready for Kwanzaa." During the seven days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in! Author and illustrator Karen Katz's wonderful series of picture books for the very young offer a simple and fun way to get familiar with the traditions of holiday celebrations from different cultures.
Honorable Mentions
The Story of Kwanzaa book
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Seven Spools of Thread book
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Together for Kwanzaa book
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My First Kwanzaa Book book
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Together for Kwanzaa - The Book Snob Mom -

    The illustrations in this book are gorgeous! It is definitely on the long side, but it's a fine story explaining the principles of Kwanzaa and emphasizing the bond between siblings.

  4. My First Kwanzaa Book - Introduces Kwanzaa, the holiday in which Afro-Americans celebrate their cultural heritage.

Want to see books about Kwanzaa?

Books About Africa and History

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Little Guides to Great Lives: Nelson Mandela
Written by Isabel Thomas & illustrated by Hannah Warren
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-11
Anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, Nelson Mandela's journey from political prisoner to president of South Africa is an incredible tale of triumph in the face of adversity. 2018 marks a hundred years since his birth. From artists to aviators and scientists to revolutionaries, Little Guides to Great Lives is a brand new series of small-format guides introducing children to the most inspirational figures from history in a fun, accessible way. Launching with Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, and Amelia Earhart, Little Guides to Great Lives tells the stories of the most amazing people from all over the world and across history, with full-color illustrations and fresh design to bring their incredible stories to life.
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Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians!
Written & illustrated by Gary Northfield
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
Julius Zebra is in ancient Egypt on his third madcap adventure. Will he and his friends make it out alive, or will they all end up entombed in a pyramid forever? After being shipwrecked on the shores of Egypt, Julius Zebra can't believe his luck: he's been mistaken for a Horse God and given the royal treatment. Preened and pampered, Julius and his friends are treated to a lavish party and ferried down the River Nile. But when hapless antelope Felix accidentally stumbles upon the Tomb of Cleopatra, he steals a gem for his rock collection, unknowingly bringing a pharaoh's curse down upon the group. With the Egyptians beginning to realize that Julius is not quite what they thought he was, the zebra gladiator and his friends are soon fighting for their lives in a series of hilarious hijinks.
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Orange for the Sunsets
Written & illustrated by Tina Athaide
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
From debut author Tina Athaide comes a soaring tale of empathy, hope, and resilience, as two best friends living under Ugandan President Amin’s divisive rule must examine where—and who—they call home. Perfect for fans of Half from the East and Inside Out and Back Again. Asha and her best friend, Yesofu, never cared about the differences between them: Indian. African. Girl. Boy. Short. Tall. But when Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things that people in Entebbe can see—not the shared after-school samosas or Asha cheering for Yesofu at every cricket game. Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. Now as neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure—not even their friendship. Tensions between Indians and Africans intensify and the deadline to leave is fast approaching. Could the bravest thing of all be to let each other go?
Honorable Mentions
Rhino in the House book
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Grandad Mandela book
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Nelson Mandela book
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Gervelie's Journey: A Refugee Diary book
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  1. 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.”—

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

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