Children are turned into readers on the laps of their parents.
They are turned into travelers and lovers of Africa by the books that they read.
It has been excruciatingly difficult putting together a list of great books for little minds about our favorite continent… there are so many wonderful tales out there and African folklore is marvelously rich pickings for magical stories.
We hope you find the time to read some of these books with your favorite small travelers.
Kindergarten to 3 years old
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
by Verna Aardema (1975)
A Mosquito tells a story that causes a jungle disaster.
From 4 years old
A is for Africa
by Ifeoma Onyefulu (1997)
An alphabet book based on the author’s favorite images from her childhood in Nigeria. It teaches customs and objects that one may find in Africa
by Mary Hoffman (1991)
Grace loves stories, whether they’re from books, movies, or the kind her grandmother tells. So when she gets a chance to play a part in Peter Pan, she knows exactly who she wants to be
by Mary Hoffman (2000)
A charming sequel to the wonderful Amazing Grace. When Grace gets the opportunity to go to Africa and visit with her father and his new family, she feels a little strange. But Nana says families are what you make them, and Grace is going to make the most of hers!
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
by Gerald McDermott (1969)
In this traditional Ashanti tale we meet Anansi the Spider, one of the great folk heroes of the world. He is a rogue, a mischief maker, and a wise, lovable creature who triumphs over larger foes.
Ashanti to Zulu
by Margaret Musgrove (1992)
Learn about all the African cultures (There is a rumor that adults have been caught spending time surreptitiously with this book.)
The Chicken in the Kitchen
by Nnedi Okorafor, Mehrdokht Amini (2015)
What do you do when you spot a giant chicken in the kitchen on the eve of the New Yam Festival?
Desmond and the Very Mean Word
by Desmond Tutu (2012)
Based on a true story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s childhood this book deals with bullying, name-calling the power of words and how to forgive.
Giraffes Can’t Dance
by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (2012)
A book with light-footed rhymes and high-stepping illustrations, that will gently inspire every child with dreams of greatness.
by Eileen Browne (2011)
A fun book full of numbers and animals… and finding Hen 3.
The Magic Gourd
by Baba Wagué Diakité (2003)
A heart-warming book about generosity and the virtues of sharing.
Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya
by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and Julia Cairns (2006)
An engaging story that helps children learn about the power of community.
Masai and I
by Virginia Kroll (1997)
An American girl dreams of being a Maasai*.
The Mother of Monsters
by Fran Parnell and Sophie Fatus (2011)
Filled with humor, a mischievous female protagonist and a fast-paced plot, children are sure to want to read this book in one go.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale
by John Steptoe (1987)
If Cinderella was set in Zimbabwe. Mufaro’s two daughters react in different ways to the King’s search for a wife – one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king disguises himself to learn the true nature of both the girls and chooses Nyasha, the kind, and generous daughter, to be the queen.
My Rows and Piles of Coins
by Tololwa M. Mollel, E.B. Lewis (1999)
A market day story with a very sweet ending.
by Kadir Nelson (2013)
A biography of the great man behind the familiar name.
Omer’s Favorite Place
by Obi Onyefulu (2011)
Learn about the realities of an Ethiopian boy’s daily life.
Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa
by Niki Daly (2007)
A creative re-telling of a story we know well.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
by Jeanette Winter (2008)
The story of Wangari Maathai is a real-life hero who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental work.
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The Water Princess
by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel and Peter H. Reynolds (2016)
Based on supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood, a young girl dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her African village.
Who is King? Ten Magical Stories from Africa
by BeverleyNaidoo, Piet Grobler (2015)
An anthology of stories from around the continent.
Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky
by Elphinstone Dayrell and Blair Lent (1990)
An African folklore answer to a big question.
Zahrah the Windseeker
by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (2008)
A magical storyline about facing your worst fears bravely.
From 8 years old
Africa Is Not a Country
by Margy Burns Knight, Mark KcInicove, and Anne Sibley O’Brien (2002)
A peep at the daily lives of children in the many countries of modern Africa. Africa Is Not a Country celebrates the extraordinary diversity of this vibrant continent as experienced by children at home, at school, at work, and at play and counters stereotypes along the way.
African Tales: A Barefoot Collection
by Geina Mhlophe and Rachel Griffin (2017)
This is an excellent folktale anthology for older children. Eight traditional tales are included, with each tale introduced by two pages of cultural information about the country in which it is set. The stories include bravery, wisdom, wit and heroism.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon (2015)
This is the true story of Isatou Ceesay, who becomes the change her country needs when she decides to do something about the plastic bags that were floating everywhere in their village.
We All Went on Safari
by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns (2004)
Join Arusha, Mosi, Tumpe and their Maasai friends as they set out on a counting journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. The lively, rhyming text is accompanied by an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili, a map, notes about each of the animals, and interesting facts about Tanzania and the Maasai people.
*Following consultation with the relevant tribes, we at Rothschild Safaris refer to the place as the Masai and the people as the Maasai.
Also: Books from Africa for grown-ups.