The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Africa, the Middle East and South Asia - June 2011

Selected and annotated by Miriam Larson

Stories Set in Africa
Stories Set in the Middle East and South Asia

Stories Set in Africa

Badoe, Adwoa. Between Sisters. Groundwood, 2010. 208 p. Gr. 7-10.
Sixteen-year-old Gloria Bampo moves from the capital of Ghana to the inland city of Kumasi where the distance from her strict father allows her new freedoms. But her freedoms, which include buying expensive clothes on credit, playing in a band, and getting involved with men, don’t come without challenges.  

Marsden, Carolyn and Philip Merlin Matzigkeit. Sahwira: an African Friendship. Candlewick Press, 2009. 189p. Gr. 5-9.
Two boys become friends even though their fathers are religious leaders from very different religious backgrounds: one is Shona and the other is a Methodist missionary. But their friendship is challenged when a conflict in their village in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe ) sparks political and racial tensions.

Okorafor, Nnedi. Akata Witch. Viking, 2011. 368p. Gr. 6-9.
Sunny is West African by blood, American by birth, albino, and a Leopard person. The fact that she is a Leopard person with magical abilities is a new discovery for Sunny and she must learn to use her magic and her access to the spirit world (based on the Nigerian Igbo conception of the spirit world) to stop the Black Hat who has threatened to release the ultimate evil spirit.

Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water: A Novel. Clarion Books, 2009. 128p. Gr. 5-8.
Based on a true story, this novel follows young Salva’s escape from Sudan. Salva is on the long journey with the group known as the Lost Boys and eventually is chosen to go live in the United States. Interspersed with Salva’s story are reflections by Nya, a Sudanese girl who makes the long walk to water each day and eventually meets Salva when he returns to Sudan to oversee the installation of a well.

Stratton, Allan. Chanda's Wars. Harper Collins, 2008. 400p. Gr. 7-10.
In a fictional country in sub-Saharan Africa that was also the setting of Chanda’s Secrets, Chanda sets out to stop a rebel general who is stealing children to serve in his army of child soldiers.

Wallace, Jason. Out of Shadows. Holiday House, 2011. 282p. Gr. 9-12.
Set in a boarding school in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of Robert Mugabe’s rise to power, this story follows Jacko Jacklin, an English boy who has just arrived and must confront the trauma and racial hatred that his classmates harbor during this pivotal time in Zimbabwe’s recent history.

Yohalem, Eve. Escape Under the Forever Sky: A Novel. Chronicle Books, 2009. 218p. Gr. 7-10.
Lucy, the daughter of the American ambassador to Ethiopia, wishes she could go out more. When Lucy and a friend sneak out to explore the capitol city one day, Lucy is kidnapped. She is able to escape but must survive the Ethiopian bush and the wildlife that comes up close and personal.


Stories Set in the Middle East and South Asia

Mead, Alice. Dawn and Dusk. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2007. 152p. Gr. 5-8.
When Azad finds out that his uncle is involved in the Kurdish resistance movement in Iran and that both of his divorced parents are embroiled in the local political conflict as well, Azad finds himself knee-deep in danger he did not know was so close at hand. The story takes place at the time of the 1987 Kurdish resistance in Iran and Mead provides context that will help readers understand the larger political and cultural context.

Qamar, Amjed. Beneath My Mother's Feet. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008. 198p. Gr. 7-10.
Nazia’s future changes when her brother steals her dowry and her mother has to take a cleaning job after her father is injured in a construction accident. Set in modern Karachi, Pakistan, Nazia’s story is a coming of age narrative in a non-Western cultural context that never-the-less follows the familiar struggle for teenage affirmation and independence.

Reedy, Trent. Words in the Dust. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011. 288p. Gr. 6-10.
Based on the author’s experiences, Words in the Dust follows thirteen-year-old Zulaikha who is taken by American troops to have her cleft lip fixed. While she is grateful for the surgery that reduces taunting and bullying in her life, she observes ignorance and insensitivity on the part of the American troops and she is witness to her peoples’ struggle to carry on in modern occupied Afghanistan.

Sheth, Kashmira. Boys Without Names. Balzer and Bray, 2010. 320p. Gr. 5-8.
Gopal’s family flees their village looking for work and the possibility of advancement in Mumbai, India. But when they arrive, Gopal’s father disappears and Gopal is abducted and forced to work in a sweatshop alongside other child laborers. Gopals experiences are disturbing and are based on Sheth’s interviews with Indian kids who have worked in sweatshops, but Gopal is a resilient and imaginative character who emerges as a leader among his peers.

Staples, Suzanne Fisher. The House of Djinn. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 207p. Gr. 7-10.
In the third book of a trilogy set in Pakistan, Shabanu comes out of hiding to see her family and let them know she is still alive. When Shabanu’s grandfather dies, it is uncertain who will become the next tribal leader and Shabanu’s friend Jameel is particularly torn between values he learned during his childhood in America and the cultural values that are his heritage.