The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Explore Africa Through Children's Literature - November 2005

Selected and annotated by Kathleen Weibel

Asare, Meshack. Sosu's Call. Kane / Miller, 2002. Ages 6-9 years.
Sosu can not use his legs, yet with his dog Fusa he saves his Ghanaian village. In return the villagers enable him to have his wish: he goes to school in a wheelchair proudly pushed by the other children in the village.

Ashley, Bernard. Little Soldier. Scholastic, 2002. Grades 8-12.
Kaninda is a rebel fighter in his homeland until the Red Cross takes him to London, to what should be a "better life," where he uses his rebel skills in gangland warfare. Set in a fictional African country and London this tale of boy soldiers is loosely based on reports of the war in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the author's research on guerilla warfare; visits to Uganda; and conversations with students about gangs in Great Britain.

Badoe, Adwoa. The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories. Groundwood / Douglas & McIntyre, 2001. Ages 5-9 years.
Badoe has embellished ten of the spider trickster tales she heard while growing up in Ghana. Each tale is illustrated by Malian artist Baba Wague Diakite's detailed glazed tiles and cartoonish ink drawings.

Burns, Khephra. Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali. Gulliver / Harcourt, 2001. Grades 4-6.
Leo and Diane Dillon richly illustrate this fictionalized life of Mansa Musa who ruled what is now Mali in the fourteenth century.

Daly, Niki. What's Cooking, Jamela? Farrar, 2001. Ages 4-7 years.
A joyful South African Christmas story in which Jamela's chicken named Christmas doesn't end up in the stew pot.

Grifalconi, Ann. The Village that Vanished. Dial, 2002. Ages 6-10 years.
In this original tale with strong water color and ink illustrations a storyteller tells how the Yao people saved themselves from slavery thanks to the courage, cleverness and faith of a young girls and her old grandmother.

Kessler, Cristina. No Condition is Permanent. Philomel, 2000. Grades 7-12.
Everything is different for Jodi when she moves with her mother from San Diego to the village in Sierra Leone where her mother had been a Peace Corps volunteer. Friendship with Khadi, a girl her age, makes Jodi feel a part of the village until Jodi learns about Sande, the female circumcision rituals.

Lekuton, Joseph Lemasolai. Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savana. National Geographic, 2003. Grades 4-8.
The autobiography of a Maasai warrior who also teaches social studies at Virginia's Langley School.

MacDonald, Margaret Read. Mabela the Clever. Whitman, 2001. Ages 3-7 years.
Storyteller MacDonald retells a Limba cautionary tale featuring a mouse outwitting a cat that begs to be read aloud or told to a group of pre-schoolers. The illustrations are as vibrant as the tale.

Mead, Alice. Year of No Rain. Farrar, 2003. Grades 4-7.
Sudan is at war with itself and it can be a dangerous place for a young boy who wants to pursue his education rather than fight. Stephen Majok must flee his village. His travels with a group of boys in search of safety bring him back home but only for a little while.

Mollel, Tololwa M. Subira Subira. Clarion, 2000. Ages 5-8 years.
Tatu learns that patience is needed to help her little brother deal with the death of their mother in this pastel-illustrated retelling of the traditional Asian and African tale "The Lion's Whisker," this time set in contemporary Tanzania.

Olaleye, Isaac. In the Rainfield: Who is the Greatest? Blue Sky / Scholastic, 2000. Ages 5-8 years.
Rain, Fire and Wind get into an argument over who is the greatest in this retelling of a Nigerian tale. There is a furious contest depicted in collages set on marbled papers. A winner emerges along with a lesson: "the gentlest is the greatest!"

Onyefulu, Ifeoma. A Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes. Dutton, 2000. Ages 3-5 years.
Adaora and her cousin who serves as narrator and guide encounter many shapes as they search their village for Adaora's favorite shape, the triangle. We go along with them through color photographs of village scenes with boxed explanations of objects, clothing, plants and food unfamiliar to non-Africans.

Onyefulu, Ifeoma. Welcome Dede! An African Naming Ceremony. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2003. Ages 6-9 years.
Set in Ghana among the Ga people this photographic portrait of a naming ceremony is told through the eyes of the baby's cousin who can't wait for her to have a name. As with Nigerian author Onyefulu's other book, there are boxed explanations for those not familiar with the customs.

Reef, Catherine. This is Our Dark Country: The American Settlers of Liberia. Clarion, 2002. Grades 5-9.
Beginning in 1820 African-American settlers, free blacks and former slaves, began traveling to West African to establish colonies in what is now Liberia. This is their story but it is also the story of the controversial issue of African-American repatriation to Africa and the story of the Liberian nation. All three intertwining tales are told in a text rich with illustrations and photographs.

Stuve-Bodeen, Stephania. Mama Elizabeti. Lee & Low, 2000. and Elizabeti's School. Lee & Low, 2002. Ages 5-7 years.
In Mama Elizabeti Elizabeti leaves her rock baby doll for the frustrations of caring for her toddler brother. A slightly older Elizabeti experiences her first day at school in Elizabeti's School. Both books are set in a Tanzanian village richly illustrated in warm earth tones with splashes of bright color.

Washington, Donna L. A Pride of African Tales. Amistad / HarperCollins, 2004. Grades 3-6.
Five African nations supply six teaching tales for this lushly illustrated collection: Nigeria, Congo, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ghana. There are notes for each story and suggestions for further reading.