A List of 20 Children’s Books by African Authors
A significant part of the development of children is their reading. Each child has a vivid imagination, so fueling this can help them develop ideas that in effect help how they see the world. Additionally, it helps them to develop empathy and understanding about the world from a young age.
Although it is necessary for everybody to read literature from around the world, if you are of African descent, it is a good idea to give your child an understanding of the various cultures in the continent early in their life.
- The Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor, Mehrdokht Amini
Anyaugo is a young girl who spots a giant chicken in the kitchen on the eve of the New Yam Festival which threatens to ruin all the preparation (and food!) for the next day. Aided by her friend, a nature spirit, she follows it and all sorts of madness ensues. This book is ideal for ages four and above, and includes lovely illustrations from Amini.
- Who is King? Ten Magical Stories from Africa by Berveley Naidoo, Piet Grobler
Follow the tales of Africa’s animals as they live together and find out why the hippo has no hair, how the elephant got his trunk, how the tortoise played a trick, and who is king of the animal kingdom. It draws from stories from all around the continent, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Malawi, all with lots of song and dance.
- The Magic Gourd by Baba Wagué Diakité
This is a heart-warming book about generosity and the virtues of sharing. In it, a rabbit rescues a chameleon, who then rewards him with a magic gourd that always fills itself with water and food. However, a king intent on gaining wealth steals it away from him. Will the rabbit ever recover his gift? And what will happen to the king?
- My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel, E.B. Lewis
This is a book about a boy who hopes to help his mother carry loads to the market once he is able to buy a red and blue bike. He saves up for the purchase and teaches himself how to ride a bike. However, when the time comes, he does not have enough coins to buy the bike. What will he do? This is definitely a sweet story with an even sweeter ending.
- Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Zahrah was born with vines in her hair and is therefore considered to have magical powers, despite the fact that she does not agree. Soon, however, strange things start to happen and she must be brave in order to save her best friend’s life.
- Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu
Since most children suffer bullying and teasing at some point in their lives, this book is a great way to teach them how to respond to name calling. Desmond is called a mean name by a group of boys, and retaliates in the way of an insult. However, with the help of a priest, Father Trevor, he learns to forgive.
- A Beach Tail by Karen Williams
Little Gregory draws a lion in the sand. Totally immersed in this activity he winds its tail around a jellyfish, a sandcastle, a crab, further and further away from his Dad… until he is lost. A Beach Tail brings to life a child’s summer experience. The rhythmic text, paired with realistic water color illustrations, makes this a wonderful read-aloud book for preschool children.
- Masai and I by Virginia Kroll and Nancy Carpenter
This book is about a young American girl who learns about East African culture and begins to imagine herself as a Masai. Her thoughts begin to weave between the two different cultures and as does the beautiful artwork, drawn by Nancy Carpenter.
- Sosu’s Call by Meshack Asare
Sosu’s Call won the 1999 UNESCO 1st prize for Children’s and Young People’s Literature. It is also commonly listed as one of the top twelve titles of Africa’s 100 Best Books. But what is so good about this book? Well, it tells the story of Sosu, a disabled boy who can’t walk. Despite his disability, he is always around to aid his town when in need. People around him find that he has a great deal to contribute despite his physical limitations.
- Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe
This story is about a 11 year old who wants nothing more than to cross the Niger river and get to Asaba, but unfortunately he doesn’t have the six-pence needed for the ferry. Chike then goes on a series of adventures to get across, and once he does, it opens up a whole new series of adventures for him.
- Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But after leaving Kenya for a period of time, she is distraught to find entire forests being cut down. So Wangari takes it upon herself to do something about it and starts by planting nine seeds in her backyard. As they grow, so do her ideas.
- Safari, So Good! All About African Wildlife by Bonnie Worth
In this latest installment of the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library, the Cat takes Sally and Nick to Africa—where they meet some really big cats—and all sorts of other animals, too, including elephants, zebra, giraffe, hippos, warthogs, buffalo, baboons, side-striped jackals, spotted hyena, pythons, vipers, and six kinds of antelope!
- Magic Land by Cheri Marie Anthony
Tina and Lisa are two little orphan girls who are best friends. One day Tina is injured in an accident and wakes up in Magic Land. Learn about the power of friendship in this magical tale.
- Happy To Be Nappy by Bell Hooks
This children’s book celebrates the beauty of black hair!
- A Beach Tail by Karen Williams
Little Gregory draws a lion in the sand. Totally immersed in this activity he winds its tail around a jellyfish, a sandcastle, a crab, further and further away from his Dad… until he is lost. A Beach Tail brings to life a child’s summer experience. The rhythmic text, paired with realistic watercolor illustrations, makes this a wonderful read-aloud book for preschool children.
- God’s Dream by Desmond Tutu & Douglas Carlton Abrams
God’s Dream is a gentle picture book for the very young in which Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains the concept of unity and forgiveness with warmth and humor, supported by vibrant illustrations.
- The Best Mum by Sarah Nash
Mum always says “no” when someone asks her if she works. But little Kizzy thinks being a mum is a hard job – and also the best one ever! With repetitive text and energetic illustrations, The Best Mum is a sweet tribute to mothers and a fun read for children of all ethnicities.
- Papa, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joose
‘Papa, do you love me?’ is set in Africa and features the Masai culture. The follow-up to the best-selling ‘Mama, Do You Love Me?’ captures the universal love between a father and child. Beautiful watercolor illustrations, lyrical text and endearing message are sure to make this another instant classic.
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This book portrays the impact of British colonization on the life of a settled African community. The author not only informs the outside world about Ibo cultural traditions, but also reminds his own people of the value of their past.
- Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
The first novel of this Zimbabwean writer portrays an African society whose younger generation of women struggle with varying degrees of success and failure.
So, this is a list of some great children’s books by African authors to read to your little ones.