I thought I would share some inspiring, illustrated children's books set in Africa with you. Maybe the list will motivate you to learn about one of the African countries mentioned or even inspire you to add one of them to your list of future travel destinations. As traveling is still limited at the moment due to the pandemic, it does not hurt to dream and explore our planet through books. Happy reading!
1) A Country Far Away
It is an illustrated book comparing the lives of 2 boys in two cultures. One boy is in Africa and the other in the USA. It shows similarities and differences in both cultures, and in the end, you realize no matter where you live in the world at the end of the day, our lives are the same, and we are more similar in many ways than different. Beautifully illustrated book and appropriate for ages 3-8
2) Bamiliké Fairy Tales
Bilingual French/English 96 pages storybook from the Bamiliké people of Cameroon.
Illustrated and enchanting stories that will delight both young and older kids.
3) Chinye: A West African Folk Tale
It is 32 pages book with vivid watercolor illustrations about a Nigerian folktale. It is a version of Cinderella allowing children to see that anyone can be Cinderella but with the message that good overcomes evil.
4) Mufaro’s beautiful daughters
This African folktale received the Caldecot honor medal in 1988. The story takes place in Zimbabwe and is the story of a king and his two daughters. One named Nyasha ( meaning mercy) and the other Manyara ( meaning ashamed). I will let you read the book to find out how different the sisters are. It is beautifully illustrated, and the message of this story is that being kind is always rewarded.
5) Crocodile’s Tears
Two animals are on a quest all over Africa searching for answers on why a crocodile is crying. The book is about endangered species in Africa. It is a cute story with a twist. We don’t want to spoil it for you, so grab a copy if you haven’t already.
6) Beatrice’s Goat
Heifer International is a nonprofit organization working to end hunger and poverty and save the earth through gifts of farm animals and training. This book is about the true story of Beatrice, a little girl from Uganda, and her six siblings. The story is about how the goat gift from Heifer International made a difference in her family. Lovely illustrated with a positive message on how small changes can sometimes make a big difference.
7) Papa, Do you love me?
Thirty-six book pages beautifully capture the love between a father and son as they venture through the Serengeti Plain in Africa. The little boy askes his dad in different scenarios how much he loves him. A great read for preschool and third grade. The book has beautiful watercolor illustrations.
8) A story, a story
A fascinating story that fans of African folktales will, for sure, enjoy! It is a colorful take of Kwaku Anase the "spiderman" who has to accomplish three difficult tasks to earn a treasure box of stories from Myame, the sky god, No spoiler alert, so grab this book if you haven't already!
9) The Matatu
Winner of a Smithsonian Africana Award in 2013, this folktale is the story of five-year-old Kioko who is taking his first bus trip to Machakos to celebrate his birthday. The story takes place in Ghana and portrays the bond between Kioko and his grandfather and what he learned during the ride.
10) One hen: How one small loan made a big difference
This story is based on the life of a Ghanaian entrepreneur man named Kwabena Darko. It has bright illustrations and shows how one simple act of generosity can set up a family in poverty for success. Kojo, whose father died and mother struggled to provide financially, receives a small loan and invests in a hen, in which he eventually creates a farm that provides for his family. This is a great book that explains the concept of microfinance, plus it helps kids see the impact their actions can have. They will learn that you are never too young to make a big impact.
11) We all went on Safari
If you want to learn to count in Swahili, this is the book for you. Let's practice:
Moja ( 1),mbili.(2),tatu(3),nne(4),tano(5),sita(6).You will be joining a group of friends through the Serengeti in Tanzania and encounter many animals from that region. You will also learn the names of these animals in Swahili. Plenty of bright, colorful illustrations that will captivate young readers.
12) The water princess
We enjoy this story because it educates the young kids about the value of water. This story is based on the childhood of Burkina Faso fashion model Georgie Badiel. It tells the story of her walking for miles with her mother and other women in her village to get water. Beautifully illustrated and certainly a conversation starter for all of us regarding water access and privilege.
13) One plastic bag
This book tells the true story of Isatou, a Gambian woman who realizes the huge problems plastic bags caused to her community and how she tackled the issue and organize women in her community to recycle plastic bags into woven purses.
We enjoyed this book as the kid can learn about pollution, recycling, perseverance, and especially the positive difference one person can make. "People thought I was too young and that women couldn't be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn't call out the problems -- I called out solutions." -- Isatu Ceesay
14) Emmanuel’s dream
This is an inspiring picture book about the childhood and work of Emmanuel Ofoso Yeboah. Emmanuel overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to prove that disabled does not mean unable. Despite having one leg, he managed to change conversations about disabilities in Ghana after he cycled 400 miles in 10 days.
15) Grandpa Kobe helps Amani and Pendo in Tanzania
Beautifully illustrated story that teaches gratefulness, empathy, and how to help people in need.
This is a South African folk story of a young boy, his father, and grandfather who have been banished from their community for making mischief. It is bright and colorful, and there is magic too grab your copy to find out more.
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