15 Children’s Books About Africa (Updated!)

I am starting to update the Read Around the World booklists that I first published a couple of years ago. In the coming months, I will consider whether any newly published books should be added to the lists. Here is the first updated booklist — 15 (previously 12) Children’s Books About Africa!

In this case, it was tough for me to deviate from my original booklist. The original booklist included a diverse selection of stories set in countries around Africa, and every single book on the list was one that I really liked. Thus, while I read several newly published books set in Africa, I did not discover any that seemed worthy of displacing the books on the original list.

In the end, I added two picture books that I have been thinking about since I selected the books for the original booklist and one recently published picture book: Anna Hibiscus’s Song by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia.

The kids making Moraccan Sweet Couscous from The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook by Deanna Cook.

I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite and Baba Wague Diakite. The story of a young girl from the United States who loses her tooth while visiting her family in Mali. In exchange for her tooth, the girl receives two chickens from the African tooth fairy. I Lost my Tooth in Africa is one of my four-year-old daughter’s very favorite books. Ages 3+

Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia. A story about a young girl who cannot contain her happiness. Anna Hibiscus’s Song features beautiful, lively illustrations and introduces readers to Anna Hibsicus and Anna’s loving, extended family. This picture book will hopefully lead young readers to check out Atinuke’s wonderful early chapter book series starring Anna Hibiscus. Ages 3+

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me by Maya Angelou and Margaret Courtney-Clarke. Via Maya Angelou’s playful and poetic prose, a girl Thandi from the Ndebele tribe in South Africa introduces herself to readers. Margaret Courtney-Clarke’s photographs make Thandi’s world come alive; they include wonderful portraits of Thandi and other Ndebele women and children in traditional beads and bracelets as well as striking photographs of colorful painted houses. Ages 3+

For You Are a Kenyan Child by Kelly Cunnane and Ana Juan. A playful story about a young Kenyan boy who gets distracted by the sights and sounds of his village when he is supposed to be watching his grandfather’s cows. For You Are a Kenyan Child is laced with Swahili and features gorgeous illustrations by Ana Juan. Ages 4+

Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and Catherine Stock. A young Malawi boy goes to great lengths to collect enough wire to make a galimoto, a toy vehicle. With industriousness and creativity, the young boy creates an impressive toy. Ages 4+

The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou, Ali Alalou, and Julie Klear Essakalli. As Nora waits for dinner to finish cooking, Nora’s grandfather tells her a story from his childhood in Morocco. One year when the rains did not come, grandfather tells her, his family had very little food. Each day, he would sit and wait for the butter man to come, hoping for a little butter to dip his bread into. When grandfather’s story and dinner are finished, Nora sits down to a delicious Moraccan meal with a new sense of gratitude. Ages 4+

Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin, Rich Chamberlain, and Julia Cairns. In this playful story, Mama Panya and her son set off to the market to purchase flour and a pepper to make pancakes for dinner. Along the way, the son invites one friend after another to join them for pancakes, ignoring Mama Panya’s warnings that there will not be enough food to feed everyone. The endnotes to this story contain information about village life in Kenya, an introduction to Kiswahili, and a recipe for Mama Panya’s pancakes. Ages 4+

Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch. Grace is a wonderful character — creative, adventurous, and thoughtful. In Boundless Grace, Grace is invited to visit her father, who she has not seen for years, in The Gambia. Boundless Grace is a compelling story about Grace trying to make sense of her family after meeting her father’s new wife and children. It includes memorable descriptions and illustrations of an African airport, compound, marketplace and more. Ages 4+

My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa. A humorous story about a young boy Mustafa whose father is teaching him to help sell beautiful Moraccan carpets to tourists. When Mustafa discovers a carpet with a hole in it, he convinces his father to let him keep it. Mustafa proudly throws the carpet over his head and heads to the market to show it to his friends. On his excursion through the marketplace, Mustafa unexpectedly attracts customers to his father’s shop. Ages 4+

What’s Cooking, Jamela? by Niki Daly. Jamela’s mother and grandma are preparing for Christmas dinner and give Jamela responsibility for caring for the Christmas chicken. However, while caring for the chicken, Jamela grows attached and decides to save the chicken from being eaten for Christmas dinner. What’s Cooking, Jamela? is an energetic and engaging story. Ages 4+

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter. A true story about a young girl from a Ugandan village who longs to go to school. When Beatrice’s family receives a goat, Beatrice begins earning money and eventually earns enough money to pay for school. My children enjoy reading about Beatrice caring for her goat, earning money, and attending school for the first time. Ages 4+

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire Nivola. One of four picture books recently written about the inspirational Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Wangari Maathai led efforts to reforest Kenya and was the founder of the Green Belt Movement. In Planting the Trees of Kenya, author Claire Nivola clearly and engagingly tells the story of Wangari’s life and explains the value of planting trees. For readers who would like more details about Wangari Maathai’s life, I would also recommend Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson and Sonia Sadler. Ages 4+

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin and A. G. Ford. A gripping story about a group of friends playing football in a South African shanty town. They must protect their prized possession – a brand new football – from older boys who would like to take it. Ages 4+


My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa Mollel and E. B. Lewis. A boy Saruni saves coins to purchase a new bicycle. While saving coins, Saruni practices riding his father’s bicycle and dreams of helping his mother carry goods to market on his new bicycle. My Rows and Piles of Coins describes how one Tanzanian family makes money by raising crops and selling them at the market. Ages 5+

Nii Kwei’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a Ghanaian City by Francis Provencal and Catherine McNamara. In a straightforward way, Nii Kwei’s Day describes Nii Kwei eating breakfast, going to school, watching marching band practice, playing soccer and board games, visiting the market, eating dinner and going to bed. Readers will notice the similarities between Nii Kwei’s life and their own. The photographs of Nii Kwei are very valuable for helping children imagine life in an African city. Ages 5+

Check out these authors!

  • Baba Wagué Diakité  The Hunterman and the CrocodileI Lost My Tooth in Africa
  • Niki Daly – Jamela’s DressWhat’s Cooking, Jamela?Not So Fast Sonogol



  • Make a mancala board and play mancala – KidWorldCitizen
  • Make a galimoto (a toy vehicle) — Delightful Children’s Books
  • Make a galimoto (a toy vehicle) — Williams Writes


You may also be interested in:

Pinterest: Africa

This entry was posted in Ages 3+, Ages 4+, Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+ and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 15 Children’s Books About Africa (Updated!)

  1. Bobbie Herhuth says:

    I am a teacher in the U.S. who travels each year to Kenya to work w/orphans who are in desperate need of books that feature AFRICAN children. These titles are awesome and much needed. HOWEVER, I am having trouble finding these books – I should say, “at a reasonable price” – my budget is very limited! I’ve checked Scholastic with little success and Amazon prices (esp. w/shipping) are so expensive. Any suggestions for suppliers? Thank you!

  2. Ranada says:

    Reblogged this on The Life and Times of Nada Dee and commented:
    Adding to Frederick’s Christmas list! We love books!

  3. PragmaticMom says:

    This is an awesome resource. Going to send it to my son’s teacher. They are studying Ghana this year. Thank you!

  4. se7en says:

    Hi there, I love your list, and I am so glad you chose “Goal” it is one of our all time favourite books!!! Here is a list of our favourite South African books that you may enjoy: http://www.se7en.org.za/2012/02/20/se7en-1-of-our-favorite-picture-books-from-south-africa-and-a-giveaway You may want to look out for the Bester sisters, their books are fantastic!!! Have a great day!!!

  5. Thank you for spreading great titles of multicultural books. Ways to connect cooking and art are nice additions for parents and teachers.

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