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5 African Children’s Books to Add to Your Child’s Library

By Zaina Adamu

Children’s books have long been popular with kids of all ages, many of whom take away powerful messages after reading long into adulthood. Books that reflect a child’s identity and experience could help instill confidence and spark creativity, and there are many great African children’s books that are great for African children and children from around the world

Here are five African children’s books that are sure to have staying power in your child’s collection of books.

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Picture Book Edition by William Kamkwamba and Elizabeth Zunon

Astounding illustrations add to the tale of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a riveting tale of a 14-year-old whose village has been ravaged by a never-ending drought.

With little resources but loads of hope, the main character, William, teaches himself how to bring electricity to the village and builds a windmill out of scraps. In turn, he becomes the community’s young hero.

The Boston Globe calls the book “a powerful, gorgeously illustrated children’s picture book,” and has been named a New York Times Bestseller and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

Jeanette Winter’s paints the true story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan political activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to environmental sustainability and peace.

As a young woman, Wangari was surprised to see the forests she grew up with were being torn down, so she begins to use her backyard to plant seedlings, which end up growing to be as large as her list of accomplishments.

“This delightful picture-book biography of the environmentalist has engaging illustrations and accessible, succinct prose,” reads a review from the School Library Journal.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka and Liz Welch

A letter exchange between an American girl named Caitlin and Martin, a Zimbabwean boy, ends up changing the trajectory of their lives.

It all started when Caitlin was asked to write to an unknown student from a different part of the world. When Martin received her letter, it ended up forming a continuous six-year exchange and friendship that still exists today.

The School Library Connection calls the uplifting book a “heart-warming memoir that will inspire readers to open their eyes to other cultures and realize that even the smallest of gestures can be important.”

Stay Close to Mama by Toni Buzzeo

Stay Close to Mama is a must-have for toddlers in the early stages of learning how to read.

Twiga is a young giraffe who has grown a natural curiosity of the world around her, but her “tall, tall Mama” wants nothing more than to protect her from the dangers in her surroundings.

“This is a perfect book for young children,” one reader wrote about the children’s book. “It is about the theme of young children wanting to explore the world and parents who are always checking to be sure they are safe.”

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate’s Home of the Brave tells the story of a young boy who left his home of Africa after his father and brother died. Now that his mother has gone missing, he moves to America and wonders if he can survive the harsh winters and unfamiliar way of life.

The children’s book “is a precise and highly accessible language that evokes a wide range of emotions and simultaneously tells an initiation story. A memorable inside view of an outsider,” reads a review from Publishers Weekly.