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Read Around the World:
Children’s Books Set in Africa

by Naima Jasmine Russell

africa

“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, Amazing Africa” is the first line of the popular Anna Hibiscus series by Nigerian author, Atinuke. She’s right! Africa, the second largest continent on earth, is incredible. There is something for every adventurer, from the long rivers to the high mountains, the wildlife-filled plains to the Egyptian deserts with ancient pyramids. These books will help you explore this amazing continent with your kids!

  • Picture Books

  • Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

    by Atinuke, illustrated by Mouni Feddag

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    This book is an excellent first glance at the beauty and wonder of Africa. Filled with bright, graphic images, it teems with information about the flora, fauna, and people in Africa’s 55 countries. Atinuke knocks it out of the park with this exciting, jumbo-sized non-fiction book about the continent she calls home.

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  • Anansi Goes Fishing

    by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Janet Stevens

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    Folktales and oral storytelling play a significant role in many African cultures. One of the most popular characters in West African and Caribbean stories is a trickster spider named Anansi. In this story, Anansi thinks the answer to his grumbling stomach is fooling Turtle into doing all the work of catching fish for him. Turtle, of course, is not so easily fooled. Full of laughter and mischief, this book is just one in a five-part series about Anansi.

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  • The Water Princess

    by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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    Based on the childhood of supermodel Georgie Badiel, this moving story highlights the issue of clean and accessible drinking water for West Africans. Princess Gie Gie loves the kingdom of her small African village so much that she rises every morning before the sun, puts a heavy pot (not a crown) on her head, and makes the several-mile journey to collect water for her people.

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  • Deep in the Sahara

    by Kelly Cunnane, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

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    Lalla lives in the country of Mauritania in the Sahara region of Africa. She longs to wear a malafa, like her mama, big sister Selma, cousin Aisha, and grandmother. When Lalla finds out that wearing the malafa is more important than beauty and tradition, she goes on a faith journey to find the true reason for wearing this important symbol for Muslim women. It’s a beautiful and poetic book that offers a window into the joy of the Muslim faith.

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  • Early Readers & Chapter Books

  • Too Small Tola

    by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

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    Early chapter books provide an excellent bridge between leveled reader books and middle grade novels. Too Small Tola, set in Lagos, Nigeria, is a delightful trio of stories about a small but mighty heroine with a lot of heart. Tola lives in an apartment with her sister, brother, and bossy grandmother. Life is busy and challenging, but it’s nothing that a strong, determined, and likable little girl can’t handle.

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  • The Soccer Fence

    by Phil Bildner, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

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    Part of exposing children to another country is giving them a glimpse of its history. In this story, young Hector dreams of soccer and integration when Nelson Mandela gets elected president and apartheid falls. When the boys of Bafana, Bafana, the beloved mixed-race national soccer team, win the African Cup of Nations, Hector realizes dreams can come true.

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  • Anna Hibiscus

    by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

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    Anna Hibiscus lives in a compound with her mother, father, grandmother, aunties, uncles, and cousins. This big biracial family works together doing chores, eating meals, and celebrating together. In this new release, Anna Hibiscus is now a chapter book series. We get to follow Anna Hibiscus on adventures like getting ready for a seaside vacation, planning a party for her auntie, and selling oranges outside the gate. This book has charming gray-scale drawings throughout.

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  • Middle Grade

  • When Stars Are Scattered

    by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy

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    In this graphic memoir, we follow two Somalian brothers in a refugee camp after a civil war. They were separated from their mother, and continue to search for her. Over six years, Omar, the oldest, struggles with decisions, schooling, and hope, while his younger brother Hassan suffers from a seizure disorder. This book is beautiful, heartwarming, and unique, with photographs of the brothers and an afterword in the back.

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  • It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime

    by Trevor Noah

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    Some people are born with the gift of seeing the humor in their problems and pain, and Trevor Noah is one such person. Born to a Black mother and white father when it was illegal for mixed-raced children to exist, Trevor and his family had an uphill battle in apartheid South Africa. He adapted this collection of stories about his childhood for young readers and tells the remarkable journey of overcoming obstacles to create incredible opportunities for himself.

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  • Who Was Nelson Mandela?

    by Pam Pollack, Meg Belviso, and Who HQ, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi

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    The Who Was? series is a collection of easily digestible chapter book biographies for middle grade readers. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a revolutionary, a peacemaker, and considered the father of modern South Africa. He spent 27 years in prison for challenging apartheid and tearing down a racist government. When he was released from prison, he became the country’s first Black president and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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  • Fibbed

    by Elizabeth Agyemang

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    Nana always tells the truth, but no one believes her “explanations” of events. Frustrated, her parents send her to stay with her grandmother in Ghana for the summer. Nana’s life gets even more complicated when she learns the land around her grandmother’s house is magical, and she runs into the trickster spider, Ananse. This full-color graphic novel is a must-read!

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  • Auma's Long Run

    by Eucabeth Odhiambo

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    In Auma’s story, we get a heartfelt and unflinching look at the AIDS epidemic and its impact on a Kenyan village. Auma dreams of becoming a doctor, and a track scholarship puts her on the right path until her father gets stricken with AIDS. How can Auma turn her back on her mother and siblings when they need her now? Based on the author’s own experiences, this story is about grief, perseverance, and the power of resilience.

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