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Good literature - Africa


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We did an Africa unit with lots of books before we traveled there last year.


There's a ton of good picture books out there. I posted some of the ones we used here, but there are others. Some would probably be too young for your two, but some wouldn't - Tololwa Mollel, for example, writes very short but moving little books.


I also posted a few chapter books here. Your kids would be too old technically for Anna Hibiscus, but they're sweet little early chapter books (think Magic Treehouse level, but better writing). But they'd be the perfect age for Journey to Jo'berg. And we LOVED Bulu, which was nonfiction, but long like a chapter book.

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Isak Dinesen comes to mind -- she is a marvelous writer. Here's a link to her Out of Africa (which, unlike the movie, is not about her marriage and her syphilitic husband. It is about Africa, experienced by a European writer who had a farm there.)


Then there's Invictus. okay, okay, it's a movie too -- but I tell you, I heard about the book first in this review @ the Economist.


These aren't really elementary, though. But they're what I know so thought I'd add to the thread...


ETA: you're going to read Burroughs, too, yes? Those books are just too much fun!

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Fiela's Child and Circles in the Forest (Dalene Matthee) are worth reading - she wrote a number of other books too - Mulberry Forest and Dream Forest are best known. They are possibly early high school level.


A younger book (age 6-8 perhaps) At the Crossroads by Rachel Isadora is also worth reading.

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okay: I pulled out my copy of Valerie and Walter's. Here's some African literature for children:


Books aimed at children reading better than early elementary; best bet for your ages, I think:

Safari Journal


Talking Walls: "Talking Walls introduces young readers to different cultures by exploring the stories of walls around the world and how they can separate or hold communities together. American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists;" Boston GLobe Top 25 Non-Fiction Children's Books, 1992; ALA Booklist, Starred Review; Horn Book, Noteworthy Book, 1993."

Facing the Lion: Growing up Masai on the African Savanna (not from V&W, one I found)


Books for middle and up (more mature content):

Girl Named Disaster (content warning: for 11 and up, girl evades child marriage)

Glory Field

Storyteller's Beads (a Christian and a Jewish girl befriend each other, despite traditions of religious animosity, fleeing drought-devastated Ethiopia into the Sudan)


Suits early elementary, middle elementary might enjoy too:

A is for Africa

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions

Boundless Grace (about a child who travels to visit family in Africa; sequel to Amazing Grace)

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain


Head, Body, Legs: a Story from Liberia

Imani's Music

Masai and I

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (we've read this, it is excellent early lit.)

Rain (this is an animal story for K&up)

Ring of Tricksters (African tales from the diaspora)

When Africa was Home

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

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I have considered making up my own literature-based study for Africa. Some of the books I have found that have not yet been mentioned are: the Akimbo series http://www.amazon.com/Akimbo-Lions-Alexander-McCall-Smith/dp/1582346879/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348879926&sr=8-1&keywords=akimbo and Growing Up in Africa http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Up-Africa-Genny-Nuckolls/dp/1599550474/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348880035&sr=1-1&keywords=growing+up+in+africa.


I haven't read these, but they looked good, and I still plan to read them to my kids. Some great picture books that I have read are:



Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain

Mama Panya's Pancakes

Beatrice's Goat

One Hen (highly recommend!)

Wangari's Trees of Peace

For You are a Kenyan Child

Africa is Not a Country

Masai and I

Jambo Means Hello

Moja Means One

Planting the Trees of Kenya:The Story of Wangari Maathai

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the trees of Kenya

Seeds of Change: Wagari's Gift to the World

We All Went on Safari

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Some other really great books about Africa, but may (probably) have subjects that are too mature for your children (your call, obviously) are:


There is No Me Without You (Ethiopia)

Long Way Gone:Memoir of a Boy Soldier (Sierra Leone)

Running for My Life:One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games (Sudan/Kenya)

Left to Tell (Rwanda)

The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village (Uganda)

Hospital By the River (Ethiopia)


Long Way Gone, Running for My Life, and especially Left to Tell have very explicit details about genocide and war. It was nearly traumatic for me to read. However, it might be useful information for you to have when teaching your kids.


Our family is adopting from Ethiopia or Uganda, and I have long had a passion for Africa. So this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

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Here are a few; even though you have late elementary/early middle school ages, picture books are fabulous for the myth/culture AND the artwork of the area!



NORTH AFRICA (fiction)


grades 1+

- The Storytellers -- (Morroco); picture book; folktale

- Bachelor & The Bean -- (Morocco) picture book; folktale

- Leila: A Tuareg Child -- (N. Africa) picture book; Saharan culture

- One Night in the Desert -- (N. Africa) picture book;Tuareg/Sahara culture

- Ali, Child of the Desert -- (N. Africa) picture book


grades 5-8 readers

- Royal Diaries: Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba -- (Angola) historical fiction

- Mzungu Boy -- historical fiction

- African Mask -- historical fiction



AFRICA: EAST and "the horn" (fiction)


gr. 1+

- The Perfect Orange -- (Ethiopia) folktale

- My Great Grandmother's Gourd -- (Sudan) picture book

- E is for Ethiopia -- non-fiction


gr. 5-8 readers

- The Storyteller's Beads -- (Ethopia) refugees flee


gr. 6+ readers

- Living in a Refugee Camp: Carbino's Story (Sudan)

- Year of No Rain





gr. 1+

- Tales from African Plains -- folktales


gr. 4-6 reader

- Rat Catcher's Son -- folktales





gr. 1+

- Beat the Story Drum Pum-Pum -- folktales


gr. 4-6 reader

- Journey to Jo'burg -- historical fiction


gr. 9+ reader

- books from No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (by Alexander McCall Smith) -- (Botswana)

- classic Literature: Cry the Beloved Country (Paton)

- classic Literature: Things Fall Apart (Achebe)

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