Whether you’re joining us as part of the Read Around the World Children’s summer reading challenge for 2021 or found this book list searching for children’s books set in Africa, we hope you’ll find the perfect book suggestions for your needs.
With vast differences in geography and culture, the continent has so much for kids to explore. While books about safari animals may be the first theme to enter your mind, there are many other great topics including books that share life in African villages, the importance of taking care of the environment, and archeologist adventures in Egypt
The list includes 40 books and is divided into sections of best children’s picture books set in Africa for younger children, early chapter books for new readers, and middle grade books set in Africa for more advanced readers. You’ll also find a recommended age ranges for every book at the end of each book description.
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Stunning color photographs depict everyday life in Nigeria, from A to Z.
The author/photographer grew up in this Nigeria, but this books' images also represent the rich diversity throughout Africa, along with the warm family ties and traditional village life found throughout this vast colorful continent.
Join these Maasai friends on a counting journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. Along the way, the children encounter all sorts of animals including elephants, lions, and monkeys, while counting from one to ten in both English and Swahili. The lively, rhyming text is accompanied by an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili, a map, notes about each of the animals, and interesting facts about Tanzania and the Maasai people.
This beautifully illustrated Caldecott Honor book introduces children to the Swahili alphabet with helpful pronunciation keys, while presenting East African culture and lifestyles through simple narratives and imagery.
Five-year-old Arinze and his older sister Cheta have grown up listening to their parents talk about the wonders of Africa, and now they are going to visit. Starting in Kenya, the family travels to ten African countries, demonstrating how vibrant and multifaceted the African landscape and cultures really are. They get to go on safari, gaze with wonder on Victoria Falls and Mount Kilimanjaro, and explore the continent’s architectural and historical wonders.
Young Ahmed makes deliveries to customers throughout the city of Cairo, maneuvering his donkey cart through streets crowded with cars and camels, down alleys filled with merchants' stalls, and past buildings a thousand years old. All day long, he thinks, 'I have a secret' and he keeps his secret safe inside. It is so special, so wonderful, that he can reveal it only to his family, only when he returns home, only at the end of the day.
On the first day of school, the children arrive at the schoolyard to find no classrooms and no desk. Only a teacher who tells them, "We will build our school. This is our first lesson."
Written by a Peace Corps volunteer who lived in Chad, this book includes vibrant illustrations and the words of a poet. It shows the importance of learning in a country where only a few children are able to attend school.
When Mama Panya's son Adika invites all of their friends to come over for pancakes, she doesn't know how she will be able to feed them all. This heart-warming story about village life teaches children the benefits of sharing while introducing simple Swahili phrases.
Through beautiful prose and illustrations, this book tells the true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as "Mama Miti," who became the African woman first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. In the 1970s, Mama Miti founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization that has helped plant more than 30 millions trees in Kenya.
This Caldecott Honor and Reading Rainbow book is an African folktale retelling of the classic Cinderella story that introduces children to the history, culture, and geography of Zimbabwe.
Mufaro has two beautiful daughters. Nyasha is kind and considerate, but Manyara is selfish and bad-tempered. When the Great King decides to take a wife and invites the most worthy and beautiful daughters in the land to appear before him, Mufaro brings both of his daughters—but only one can be queen.
What happens when a plastic bag is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred. The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads, where they collected water which brought mosquitoes and disease. The bags also strangled gardens and killed livestock who ate them.
This picture book tells the inspirational true story of Isatou Ceesay, who found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community.
Fatima and Galo load the luggage while their dad, Big Ali, drives the bus. Kids can help count bikes, sacks of rice, melons and even goats and chickens as the bus travels past Gurunsi houses, the hippo lake, waterfalls and jungle, all the way to Bobo. With the authentic setting drawn from the author's own experience, this is a wonderfully fun introduction for small children to an amazing culture.
Princess Gie Gie's home is beautiful, but there's not enough clean drinking water in her small village. Every morning she wakes before the sun and makes the long journey to the well, wearing a heavy pot on her hed to carry the water. As she boils the water each day, she dreams of a day when her village can have cool, clean water of its own.
This story is based on supermodel Georgie Badiel's childhood in Burkina Faso.
Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, in the middle of Africa. More than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman's beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith. The book includes a glossary.
This village in Cameroon is like no other village in the world - the women live in round houses and the men live in square ones. The story of how this came to be is told from the point of view of a young girl who grew up there. The rhythmic storytelling makes this a perfect book for reading aloud.
When Pretty Salma's Granny asks her to go to the market, she warns her not to talk to strangers. But cunning Mr. Dog tricks Salma, and before she knows it, he’s wearing her stripy ntama (a small drum), her pretty white beads, and her yellow sandals. And now he’s on his way to Granny’s house!
This inventive retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is infused with African culture and flavor, and the vibrant illustrations bring the story to life.
Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, Hector loved playing soccer. He dreamed of playing on a real pitch with the boys from another part of the city, but that wasn't allowed because of Apartheid. But after Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Apartheid began to crumble. When Hector sees the Bafana Bafana national soccer team win the African Cup of Nations, he realizes that his dreams might just come true.
Join sibling Chihuahuas, Bella and Harry, as they travel to Cairo and learn about the Valley of the Kings, the Pyramids of Giza, King Tut and other captivating landmarks. Along the way, you'll learn about hieroglyphics and local cuisine.
The Adventures of Bella & Harry is a picture book series that chronicles the escapades of a pup named Bella, her little brother Harry and their family, who travel the world exploring the sights and sounds of new cities.
In this Cat in the Hat Learning Library book, the Cat takes Sally and Nick to Africa to learn about the animals, including elephants, zebra, giraffe, hippos, warthogs, buffalo, baboons, side-striped jackals, spotted hyena, galagos, pythons, vipers, and six kinds of antelope. Kids will learn interesting facts, like why elephants favor one tusk, and how to tell the difference between a white rhino and black rhino.
Recommended for ages 4-7
Early Readers and Beginner Chapter Books Set in Africa
Each book in the Living In... series is filled with fresh, modern illustrations, as well as loads of history, geography, and cultural details. Join kids from all over the world on a globe-trotting adventure.
Meet David, a kid living in South Africa - a country filled with stunning cities, amazing animals, and many different cultures. Have you ever wondered what South Africa is like? David will tell you all about it, and you'll learn why they call South Africa the rainbow nation!
Meet Amira, a kid living in Egypt - a country filled with big cities, beautiful deserts, and some of the coolest ancient monuments in the world! Have you ever wondered what Egypt is like? Amira will tell you all about it!
In this book from the Ana & Andrew series, the family visits Ghana, the home of their ancestors. The kids love learning about Ghanaian culture, especially the food! They visit Cape Coast Castle and learn about the origins of the slave trade.
Ever since Stanley was flattened by a bulletin board, there are places he can get to that no one else can. So when Stanley receives a letter from an archaeologist, he travels by airmail to Egypt to help find an ancient treasure deep in the heart of a great pyramid.
When a flat skull is discovered in Africa, Stanley decides to travel there with his brother and dad. Maybe studying the skull will give them clues to Stanley's flatness. But once in Africa, the Lambchop family is in for more adventure than they bargained for. From lions to zebras to elephants, it's the safari of a lifetime!
In Book 5 of the Greetings from Somewhere series, Ethan and Ella travel with their parents to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of the Big Five game animals. They find four of the five animals, but where are the lions? The locals give Ethan and Ella clues about spotting lions and the twins put their detective skills to work.
Grade Level: 1-4 Easy-to-read language and illustrations on most pages make this book series perfect for beginning readers.
Precious wants to be a detective when she grows up and she practices by asking questions to find out about other people’s lives. There are two new students in her class, a girl called Teb and a boy called Pontsho. She learns that Pontsho has a pet meerkat named Kosi.
When Teb and Pontsho’s family’s cow disappears, Precious helps them look for clues to find the cow. But getting the cow back home will require some quick thinking and help from an unexpected source.
Grade Level: 2-5 This early reader chapter book features witty-line drawings that will draw kids in.
A young detective named Precious visits her Aunty Bee at a safari camp in the Okavango Delta. There she makes a new friend, a boy named Khumo, and discovers that a film crew is making a movie. When an actor-lion named Teddy, who is starring in a film, disappears, Khumo and Precious will brave hippos and crocodiles as they search for the missing lion.
Grade Level: 2-5 This early reader chapter book features witty-line drawings that will draw kids in.
This book is part of the Baby Professor Geography and Culture Series, but don't let the name fool you. This nonfiction book is ideal for readers in grades 2-4, and provides lots of interesting information about the spices and cuisine of Morocco. This book is perfect for budding foodies and mini-chefs, who will want to try the dishes that are described throughout.
This book contains three classic adventure tales perfect for fans of The Jungle Book and Just So Stories. Each book takes place in the heart of Africa where Akimbo lives with his family on the edge of a game reserve. This collection contains: Akimbo and the Elephants; Akimbo and the Lions; and Akimbo and the Crocodile Man.
Each of these chapter books was written by McCall Smith, who grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to Scotland, where he is now a professor of Medical Law, in addition to writing nearly 100 books for children and adults.
This is book #4 in the action-packed adventure series, Race the Wild. It takes smarts, strength, and skill to win on a once-in-a-lifetime race through the animal kingdom! When the teams take on the African savanna, the competition heats up. Each chapter in this action-packed adventure series is bursting with totally true facts about wild and wonderful creatures, dangerous habitats, maps, and more!
The Magic Treehouse and Merlin Missions book series follow a young brother and sister, Jack and Annie, on their adventures around the world and throughout history. And the Magic Treehouse Fact Tracker books provide additional factual information to help kids learn more about the topics they discovered in the Magic Treehouse adventure books.
Magic Treehouse books are recommended for readers in grades 1-4, and the Merlin Mission books and Fact Trackers are recommended for grades 2-5.
When the Magic Tree House whisks Jack and Annie back to ancient Egypt, they meet a long-dead queen who needs their help. Will Jack and Annie be able to solve the puzzle, or will they end up as mummies themselves?
Why did people make mummies? What was the mysterious writing on mummy cases? How did most ancient Egyptians spend their days? How were the pyramids built? Find out the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts.
When the Magic Tree House whisks Jack and Annie to the vast plains of Africa, he wonders where the lions are. In this adventure, Annie starts helping hundreds of wildebeests cross a rushing river and the siblings meet a Maasai warrior.
The magic treehouse sweeps Jack and Annie off to western Africa where they meet a group of mountain gorillas. Annie knows how to play with them right away, but Jack questions if they are gentle giants or if they are dangerous.
The magic tree house transports Jack and Annie to Thebes, Egypt, where they are tasked with finding Florence Nightingale, a world-famous nurse. But when they find her, the Florence Nightingale they meet is not a nurse at all. What they thought would be an easy mission turns dangerous when Jack and Annie try to solve the mystery!
Travel back in time to the age of the pyramids with this interactive trivia book from Jeopardy! winner Ken Jennings.
This book will help you become an expert on Egypt and wow your friends and teachers with awesome ancient facts: Did you know that some Egyptians used to shave their eyebrows whenever a cat died? Or that some people worshiped a god of lettuce? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status!
Simon is journeying through Botswana, in southern Africa, through the wetlands of the Okavango Delta towards the open savannah and semi-desert of Namibia. The whole area is a biodiversity hotspot. Simon is documenting his journey, and there's one animal that he particularly wants to see more than any other: a black rhino.
Part of Scholastic's The Seven Continents series, this book will help readers get to know all about Africa's geography, history, wildlife, and the people that live there today. This book is filled with curriculum-relevant subjects and includes resource sections that encourage kids to learn more.
Running through six countries in the middle of Africa, the Congo Basin contains the second largest tropical rainforests in the world, which is home to apes, gorillas, elephants, and many more animals. This book deals with the impact of European colonial exploration in this region as well as a present-day issues of climate change.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt are massive tombs built thousands of years ago, yet no one knows exactly how the ancient Egyptians did it! This book tells the story of the powerful pharaohs who commissioned the pyramids at Giza and offers a fascinating look at the culture of the afterlife in ancient Egypt, including explaining exactly how mummies were made.
This book follows the annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeests as they travel more than 1,000 miles between Tanzania and Kenya in search of new grazing land. Throughout this book, you'll also learn about the other creatures and peoples that co-exist along these beautiful landscapes of the Serengeti.
As a child, Nelson Mandela dreamed of changing South Africa, and as a man, he dreamed of changing the world. He did both! Mandela spent his life battling Apartheid and championing a peaceful revolution. He spent twenty-seven years in prison and emerged as the inspiring leader of the new South Africa. He became the country’s first black president.
Jane Goodall was born in London, England, but her desire to study animals in their natural habitats took her to Tanzania in Africa at the age of twenty-six. In the forests of what is now Gombe National Park, Goodall's up-close observations of chimpanzees changed what we know about them and paved the way for many female scientists who came after her.
Ever since the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the young pharaoh has become a symbol of the wealth and mystery of ancient Egypt. This book explains the life and times of this ancient Egyptian ruler, covering the story of the tomb’s discovery, as well as myths and so-called mummy curses.
This 144-page volume gathers many of Africa's most cherished folktales into one book. In these beloved stories, we meet a Kenyan lion named Simba, a snake with seven heads, and tricksters from Zulu folklore; we hear the voices of the scheming hyena, and we learn from a Khoi fable how animals acquired their tails and horns.
Whether warning children about the dangers of disobedience or demonstrating that the underdog can, and often does, win, these stories, through their depiction of wise animals as well as evil monsters, are universal in their portrayal of humanity, beasts, and the mystical.
Lonely Planet's "Not For Parents" series is packed with fascinating facts that will help tweens get to know the real inside story. This is not a travel guidebook - instead it's filled with tales of Dogon warriors, fearless explorers, Nollywood film stars, crazy coffins, Egyptian tombs and witch doctors. Read cool stories about Tuareg nomads, the world's biggest diamond, killer crocodiles, and eccentric dictators. Find thumb pianos and mummified monkeys, camel caravans, a golden death mask, a seriously tough desert race, and history galore.
Grade Level: 4-7
This book series is out of print, but you'll find lots of used copies on Amazon.
Fatuma does not remember a time when there was no fighting in her homeland of Somalia. With violence all around them and a lack of food and water, Fatuma and her family are forced to escape to the world's largest refugee camp, in Kenya. Life in the camp is hard, and Fatuma hopes to one day feel safe.
When Martine's parents are killed, she's forced to go live with her grandmother that she's never known. She moves from England to the wildlife game preserve called Sawubone in South Africa where her grandma lives, and she begins hearing stories about a white giraffe. Her grandma and others working at Sawubone insist that the white giraffe is just a myth, but Martine sees him with her own eyes. Why is everyone keeping it a secret? Does it have to do with the rash of poaching?
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, shares the story of his childhood in South Africa. This is a young reader adaptation of Noah's memoir of growing up under Apartheid.
The son of a black South African mother and a white European father, Trevor Noah, grew up when it was against the law for a mixed-race child to exist in South Africa. During his youth, racism barred blacks from social, educational, and economic opportunities in his country, but Trevor overcame these obstacles with the help of his mom's love and unyielding support.
Grade Level: 5-6
What You Need to Know: Parents should be aware that it includes some discussion of violence against he and his mother, alcohol and drug use by his stepfather, and petty crimes committed by Trevor and his friends as young adults.
Asha and her best friend, Yesofu, never cared about the differences between them: Indian. African. Girl. Boy. But when Ugandan President Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things that people in Entebbe can see — not the shared after-school samosas or Asha cheering for Yesofu at every cricket game.
Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. Now, as neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure...not even their friendship.
Before his father passed away, Mor promised him he would keep his sister safe and keep his family together. But now that they are orphans, keeping that promise seems nearly impossible. His aunt from the big city wants to separate him and his sister. A gang of boys from a nearby village - the Danka Boys - offer Mor loyalty, but at what price. With just one summer to prove himself, Mor has big decisions to make.
This middle grade novel set in modern-day Senegal is about family and friendship, about creating your own future, and is also laced with magical realism.
Life in Amira's peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind to all kinds of possibilities.
In this first work by the author of Artemis Fowl, a young sports fanatic named Benny is forced to leave his home in Ireland and move with his family to Tunisia. He's nervous about how he'll adjust to such an unfamiliar place, but then he meets the wild and resourceful Omar. The two form a madcap friendship that leads to hilarious escapades as well as a major challenge. This book is recommended for soccer fans and middle grade boys.
Grade Level: 4 and up
What You Need to Know: Parents should be aware that this book shows the contrast between the European experience in Tunisia and the experience of the locals. It includes a prejudicial reference about the country by Benny's mom when they first arrive. However, Benny is an open-minded character, and this book provides lots of opportunity for dialogue about the character's differing experiences.
This book begins as two stories about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan - one in 1985 and one in 2008. Told in alternating sections, we meet Nya, a girl who makes two trips a day to fetch water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home. We also meet a boy, Salva, who becomes one of Sudan's "lost boys" - refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and a safe place to stay.
Salva's story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way. The book includes an afterword by the author and the real-life Salva Dut, on whom the novel is based. The real-life Salva went on to found Water for South Sudan.
by Martin Ganda & Caitlin Alifirenka, with Liz Welch
Setting: ZIMBABWE & USA
As a school assignment, Caitlin and her classmates wrote to students in Zimbabwe. Martin was the recipient of Caitlin's pen-pal letter, and it was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned the next six years, changing both of their lives.
In this dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became friends, and how their long-distance exchange made them both better people.