This is a selection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, which are either about various countries in Africa or have characters who come from Africa. The books listed are for both Primary (elementary) and Secondary levels. Please take the recommended age levels as a rough guide.  Reviews by Kate Shepherd (KS) and Mandy Clarke (MC)

Picture Books

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema & Beatriz Vidal (illus) hb 9780803708099 $32.00 pb 9780140546163 $14.00
This classic picture book is based on a traditional story from Kenya about a drought on the Kapiti Plain. The story is told in verse, similar to the cumulative nursery rhyme “the House that Jack Built”. Beautifully illustrated showing the native animals of the Kapiti Plain and also the domesticated cows of the herders.  
(4 – 10 years) KS

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me by Maya Angelou, photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke pb 9780375825675 $14.00
Told in the words of Thandi an 8 year old Ndebele girl from South Africa, this is an engaging portrait of Thandi, her mischievous little brother and the importance in the lives the people of the village of the vibrant paintings on their houses and colourful beads and embroidery which they love to wear. A lively rhythmic text and beautiful photographs make this picture book a delight. (6 – 9 years) KS

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby B Beeler & G Brian Karas (illus) hb 9780395891087 $32.00 pb 9780618152384 $9.99 This is a fascinating book as it describes traditions of what children from around the world do with their baby teeth that have fallen out. A common tradition in many countries from Africa to Asia to Europe is to throw the tooth onto or over the roof of their house. (6 – 9 years) KS

Handa’s Hen by Eileen Browne pb 9780744598155 $16.99 big book 9780744583878 $44.99
When Handa searches for Mondi the black hen, she finds two fluttery butterflies and then three stripy mice and other animals till they finally find Mondi the hen and her ten chicks. A charming story that is a counting book and also shows us about life and the animals in a Kenyan village.
(4 - 8 years) KS

Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne pb 9780744536348 $16.99 big book 9780744554731 $44.99 

How can Handa stop the animals from stealing the seven delicious fruit she is carrying?
(5 - 8 years) KS

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide & Ted Lewin pb 9780688140236 $13.00
Ahmed is pleased with himself as he goes about Cairo’s bustling streets delivering gas bottles to his many customers who call out his name and greet him. He is very much a part of the life of this colourful and noisy city and he is proud that he is helping earn money to support his family. And his secret is that he has learned to write his name. (6 - 9 years) KS

At the Crossroads by Rachel Isadora pb 9780688131036 $14.00
A group of children in an African township eagerly gather at the crossroads to wait for their fathers who are coming home from the mines. They wait all night until finally the truck carrying their fathers arrives. A very good introduction to the hardship of families split when their fathers have to work far away in the mines. (6 – 10 years) KS

Goal! By Mina Javaherbin & A G Ford (illus) pb 9780763658229 $16.99
Set in a dusty South Africa town, a group of boys play soccer delightedly with their new federation-size ball but the streets are not safe and they have to be clever to be able to keep their ball away from bullies. This picture book captures the enthusiasm and love the boys feel for the game of soccer. (7 – 10 years) KS

Anansi and the Talking Melon by Eric A Kimmel& Janet Stevens (illus) hb 9780823411047 $32.00 pb 9780823411672 $14.00
Anansi manages to get inside a melon and eat till he is so full he can’t get out and then he amuses himself by making the elephant and the other animals think that the melon can talk. A well-told humorous story which would be wonderful to read aloud. (4 – 9 years) KS

We All Went on Safari A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs & Julia Cairns (illus) pb 9781841481197 $14.00
This is a delightfully illustrated counting book which, as well counting up to ten in numbers and in Swahili, introduces us to some of the wonderful African animals of the grasslands of Tanzania. This bright and lively counting book also serves as a very helpful introduction to this African country with information about the animals and the names of the children. (4 - 10 years) KS

Masai and I by Virginia Kroll & Nancy Carpenter (illus) pb 9780689804540 $14.00
A young girl from the city imagines how different her life would be if she were a Masai living on the East African plains. On each double page spread of this picture book, the illustration blends and links the two ways of life. For example, the sheet the girl spreads to make her bed merges on the opposite page into the cowhide spread on the bare earth of the Masai dwelling. An extra dimension to the story is given to the story because the girl and her family are black and she is exploring her feelings of kinship with the Masai. (6 - 10 years) KS

The Little One: The Story of a Red-tailed Monkey by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield pb 9781742030906 $16.99
When Kaitie was only four years old she lived in Uganda with her mother who was a scientist and was working at a sanctuary for orphaned chimpanzees. When a baby orphaned Red-tailed monkey was brought to the sanctuary, Katie became the tiny monkey’s mum. She describes how she looked after him and how they and the dog and the cat all played together. The simply written text is written by Kaitie herself and is very engaging. There is an additional page of information on Red-tailed monkeys and how their habitat is being threatened. This is an appealing story with excellent photos that young children will really enjoy. (5 – 8 years) KS

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove, illustrations by Leo & Diane Dillon pb 9780140546040 $13.00
This is a much-loved picture book originally published back in 1976. From the vast and varied continent of Africa, it depicts one customs out of many of twenty-six African peoples. The extremely beautiful illustrations let us see what Musgrove describes as she endeavours to give us an insight into the variety and traditions of Africa. (6 – 10 years) KS

Deron Goes to Nursery School (First Experiences series) by Ifeoma Onyefulu hb 9781845078645 $32.00
Deron is four years old and he lives in Ghana. This book describes his first day at nursery school. Through simple text and colourful photos. (3 – 5 years) KS

Grandma Comes to Stay (First Experiences series) by Ifeoma Onyefulu hb 9781845078652 $32.00
Also set in Ghana, Stephanie is excited when grandma comes to stay. The excellent photos and simple text invite lots of discussion about the things that Stephanie and her grandmother do together. (3 - 5 years) KS

Beatrice’s Dream A Story of Kibera Slum by Karen Lynn Williams, photographs by Wendy Stone pb 9781847804181 $16.99
This is a description of Beatrice’s life in the huge slum district in Nairobi where conditions are very muddy in winter and very dry and dusty in summer. Beatrice is thirteen-years old girl and she lives with her brother’s family since both her parents died. The text is simple and is told in Beatrice’s own words. There is not much description of Kibera but it is clear from the large photographs that this is a bustling lively community where people live extremely close together with few amenities. Although the living conditions are very poor, Beatrice is optimistic about her future. (8 – 11 years) KS


The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories by Adwoa Badoe & Baba Wague Diakite (illus) pb 9780888998699 $23.00
This is a lively, witty and entertaining collection of ten tales about the spider trickster Ananse. Badoe remembers the stories from her own childhood in Ghana. The illustrator is from Mali and his distinctive style adds humour and vitality to the stories. (5 – 12 years) KS

African Tales: A Barefoot Collection by Gcina Mhlophe and Rachel Griffin hb 9781846861185 $27.99
This is an excellent collection of well-told lively stories from Africa published in 2009. There are stories from eight countries: Namibia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Senegal, Ghana, Sudan and Ethiopia. The story called The Story of the Wise Mother from the Sudan is especially apt. It is about true friendship and sharing, between a very poor man and the sultan’s only son. There is a detailed map of Africa and general information and factual description of each country which is very helpful. The illustrations use fabrics, bead and collage work and add to the liveliness and the appeal of the collection. (7 – 12 years) KS


Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer pb 9780862785673 $18.00
Benny is devastated when he has to leave Ireland and his hurling friends and go and live in Tunisia. He is a rebel and finds the unthreatening friendly atmosphere of the international school very strange and feels more at ease with a young homeless Tunisian boy who is forced to live life on the edge. Colfer succeeds in giving a believable, unsentimental portrayal of poverty and homelessness. (10 – 15 years) KS

Christophe’s Story by Nicki Cornwell pb 9781847802507 $16.00
Christophe is an eight year old boy from Rwanda who flees the fighting in his country to come to England as a refugee with his family. His problems in settling in are described but the book is also about different ways of telling stories. Christophe doesn’t want to read stories in books because his grandfather had always told him stories aloud, and had said that if stories are written down then their spirit is lost. However Christopher tells aloud to his class the story of how he came to England and of the violence in Rwanda but decides he is happy for it to be written down word for word so that many children can hear his story. (7 – 10 years) KS

Casting the Gods Adrift by Geraldine McCaughrean pb 9780713674552 $13.00
This dramatic story is set in Egypt in the time of Akhenaten and his beautiful wife Nefertiti. Tutmose and Ibrim are honoured by the Pharaoh because of the exotic animals and birds that their father captures and presents to the Pharaoh. Tutmose describes his life at the new capital and the plans of the Pharaoh (shocking to his father and many other Egyptians) to allow only the worship of just one God, Aten, the sun-God. This is an extremely well told story which makes life in the Egyptian court come alive. (8 – 11 years) KS

Secrets in the Fire by Henning Mankell, translated from the Swedish by Anne Connie Stuksrud pb 9781865081816 $17.95
This is the remarkable story of Sofia, a young girl in Mozambique who has suffered immensely. She loses a leg in a land mine explosion and many close members of her family have been killed. However her strength, determination and indomitable spirit are remarkable. (11 years up) KS

Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo pb 9780007263509 $13.99
Set in South Africa at the time of Apartheid, this is the story of two children who set out to walk 300 miles to Johannesburg in order to reach their mother to tell her that their baby sister was very ill. Their mother works for a white family and sees her own family only a few times each year. Their journey shows the harshness and discrimination of the Apartheid regime. Originally published n 1985, this edition contains a foreward by Michel Rosen and notes on Beverley Naidoo’s own background. She grew up in South Africa with a white mother and a black nanny and can hardly believe that as child and as a young woman she never questioned the cruel system of Apartheid. (8 – 12 years) KS

Ramose Prince in Exile by Carole Wilkinson pb 9781921167058 $16.99
This is the first book in a series set in Ancient Egypt about Ramose who was the pharaoh’s rightful heir but who has had to escape and live in disguise since a plot against his life. These are exciting adventure stories which give many details of courtly and everyday life at the time of Ancient Egypt. Other titles are Ramose and the Tomb Robbers pb 9781921167065, Ramose Sting of the Scorpion pb 9781921167225 and Wrath of Ra pb 9781921167232 $16.99 each (9 – 12 years) KS


The Gorilla Book: Born to be Wild by Dr Carla Litchfield pb 9781742030883 $16.99
Beautifully photographed, this is a fascinating account of the four different types of gorillas in Africa today. Detailed descriptions of the differences between these gorillas, where they live, the habitats and the threats to their existence. (7 – 11 years) KS

Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325 – 1354 by James Rumford pb 9780618432332 $14.00
This is the most amazing story of Ibn Battuta who at the age of 21 left his home in Morocco to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. However he continued on travelling to Jerusalem, Persia, south by sea to Delhi, on to China and finally reached Morocco again after 29 years. This picture book is beautifully illustrated with detailed maps showing his travels and the world as it looked in 1325.
(8 – 12 years) KS