Saturday, April 4, 2015

Children's Books from or about Africa

This is the first of a series of posts I am writing for persons who would like to purchase multicultural books for Jamaican children, and would appreciate suggestions about what is available and appropriate. I hope that this list will also be useful for teachers, librarians, book distributers and corporate donors. This post has 20 books from and about Africa. I have been somewhat arbitrary in my selection, mainly from the website of Africa Access Review. One post cannot cover this vast continent, so there will be a part 2 at some point.
The first 10 books on the list are for younger children (aged 4-7), but not for them to read on their own, because of the level of vocabulary, the sentence structure and the concepts. They are, however, ideal for reading aloud and for discussion.    

1.     Ais for Africa by Ifeoma Onyefulu (Puffin Books 1997)  – good information about Nigeria, suitable for Jamaican Basic Schools.  Ifeoma Onyefulu has written many more beautifully illustrated books for this age group.
2.     The Magic Gourd by Baba Wague Diakite (Scholastic 2003)  - a folktale from Mali about kindness and generosity. Good for reading aloud to 4 – 7 year-olds. 
3.     A Gift from Childhood by Baba Wague Diakite (Groundwood Books 2010) - a story about traditional village life in Mali. 
4.     KenteColors by Debbi Chocolate (Walker Children’s 1997) - about the traditional kente cloth of the Ashante people of Ghana  
5.     Handa’s Hen by Eileen Browne (Candlewick 2011) – a simple counting story set in Kenya.   
6.     Catch That Goat by Polly Alakija (Barefoot Books 2002) – set in Nigeria, a goat gets away and runs through the town’s market. Grade 1 children should be able to read this simple story on their own. Younger children could tell the story from the illustrations.
7.     Babu’s Song by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen (Lee and Low Books 2003) – with the help of Babu, his mute grandfather, Bernard is able to go to school.
8.     Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber (Henry Holt and Co 2009) – living in an orphanage on the border of Somalia and Kenya, Muktar remembers the time when he lived with his family and the camels.  This book would also be of interest to older children who could read it for themselves. 
9.     Zeraffa Giraffa by Quarto Generic (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2014) – the amazing  true story of  Zeraffa, a giraffe who was sent as a gift by the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt to King Charles X of France in 1826. 
10.  Circle Unbroken by Margo Theis Raven (Square Fish 2007) – the story of how the art of basket-making was taken from Africa to the Carolinas. Is there a similar story of the way in which the art of basket-making was brought to Jamaica?  

   The following 10 books are suitable for children aged 8-12 to read on their own.
1.     Sundiata:Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski. (HMH Books for Young Readers; 1999) In the thirteenth century, Sundiata overcame physical handicaps, social disgrace, and strong opposition to rule the West African trading empire of Mali. A good book for teachers to read aloud to grades 2 & 3 children, and for older children to read on their own. 
2.     The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo (Harper Trophy 2002) – 2 children are smuggled out of Nigeria when their mother is killed in political unrest. The difficulties they face as refugees in London.  This story won a Carnegie Medal UK and many other awards.  
3.    Nelson Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom by Chris Van Wyk and Nelson Mandela (Macmillan 2009) – an abridged version of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. 
4.     The No.1 Car Spotter by Atinuke  (Kane Miller Book Pub; June 2011) – No 1 is bright, plucky and resourceful – a fantastic character for Atinuke’s new series
5.     How the Leopard got his Claws by Chinua Achebe (Candlewick Press 2011)  – a fable about the dangers of power taken by force.
6.     The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (Dial Books for Young Readers 2012)the true story of how this author, as a teenager, built a functional windmill from junkyard scraps in Malawi.  
7.     Pharoah’s Boat by David Weitzman (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2009) - the story of how one of the greatest boats of ancient Egypt came to be built.
8.     Seeds of Change – Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Johnson (Lee and Low Books 2010) - tree planting movement in Kenya spearheaded by Wangari Maathai and other women, and opposed by government and multinationals. 
9.     Bintou’s Braids by Sylviane Diouf  (Chronicle Books 2001)– a young girl in West Africa is in a hurry to grow up, but she learns that she must earn her braids. 
10.  Mystery of MeerkatHill by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor 2013) – one of several children’s detective stories, about Precious Ramotswe, set in Botswana. 

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