African Proverbs for All Ages. Collected by Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Nelda LaTeef. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2021.
“Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today.”
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”
“Like the turtle, each one of us must stick out our neck if we want to go forward.”
Dozens of proverbs are vividly illustrated in this gorgeous picture book that will inspire conversations among readers of all ages. 


Rumsford, James. Rain School. New York: Clarion Books, 2010.
It’s the first day of school and everyone is excited. But where is the schoolhouse? It’s been washed away by the rains. The teacher shows the children how to make mud bricks, dry them in the sun, and build a new classroom. And then they are ready to start reading and writing and learning about the world again. Set in Chad – and based on a true story – this cheerful and colourful picture book is especially recommended for children 5 to 9 years old. Older students will enjoy using this book for a literary analysis.


Gervelie's Journey

Robinson, Anthony and Annemarie Young. Gervelie’s Journey: a Refugee Journey. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2009, c2008.

This true story, written in the form of a diary, tells the story of a girl who had to flee from her home in 1997 when fighting broke out in her home city of Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Illustrated with paintings and photos, this touching story follows Gervelie as her family travels to Ghana and the Ivory Coast before finally moving to England. Highly recommended for readers 10-years-old and up. [Refugees]


We're Sailing Down the Nile

Krebs, Laurie. We’re Sailing Down the Nile. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books, 2007.

“As the riverboat sails down the Nile River, remnants of Egypt‘s long history and aspects of its present culture are revealed on its banks.” – CIP. A picture book for readers of all ages. [Egypt; Nile River; Stories in rhyme]


Garbage King

Laird, Elizabeth. The Garbage King. Macmillan Children’s Books, 2003.
Two teenaged runaways meet on the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.  Dani has run away from his wealthy father. Mamo, an orphan, has run away from the man who kidnapped him and sold him into slavery.  Together, they find a way to survive with the help of other boys living in poverty. [Ethiopia; Runaways; Survival; Courage; Child abuse; Slavery; Homelessness; Friendship; Brothers and sisters]

Cry of the Giraffe

Oron, Judie. Cry of the Giraffe. Toronto: Annick Press, 2010.
Thirteen-year-old Wuditu and her family, Ethiopian Jews, set out for the Sudan, hoping to eventually reach safety in Israel.  Instead, Wuditu ends up in a refugee camp and life as a slave.  Will she ever be reuinited with her family?  Based on a true story, this novel is for mature readers. [Ethiopia; Sudan; Jews; Refugees; Slavery; Historical fiction]


One Hen

Milway, Katie Smith. One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2008.

“Kojo, a poor boy in Ghana, finds a way out of poverty and helps others do the same after he is given a small loan and buys a hen.” – CIP. An informative picture book for readers 10-years-old and up. [Chicken; Ghana; Microfinance]


For You Are a Kenyan Child

Cunnane, Kelly. For You Are a Kenyan Child. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.

“…a little Kenyan boy who gets distracted by all there is to see and do and forgets what his mama asked him to do.” – CIP. A beautiful picture book for all ages. [Kalenjin (African people); Kenya; Village life]

Muktar and the Camels

Graber, Janet. Muktar and the Camels. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2009.

“Muktar, an eleven-year-old refugee living in a Kenyan orphanage, dreams of tending camels again, as he did with his nomadic family in Somalia, and has a chance to prove himself when a traveling librarian with an injured camel arrives at his school.” – CIP. A beautiful picture book for readers 8-years-old and up. The short sentences and flowing language make it a good read-aloud story. [Books and reading; Camels; Kenya; Orphans; Refugees; Somalis]

Our Secret, Siri Aang

Kessler, Cristina. Our Secret, Siri Aang. New York: Puffin Books, 2007, c2004.

“Namelok, a Masai girl, tries to persuade her traditionalist father to delay her initiation and marriage because they will restrict her freedom and keep her from the black rhino mother and baby she is protecting from poachers.” – CIP. A young adult novel recommended for mature readers due to the subject matter. [Culture conflict; Maasai (African people); Poaching; Rhinoceroses; Sex role]

Promise the Night

MacColl, Michaela. Promise the Night. Chronicle Books, 2011.
Young Beryl, abandoned by her mother and living with her father on a farm in Kenya, is determined to be independent. She is determined not to become a dignified young lady despite all the attempts made by the new housekeeper her father brings into their home and by the headmistress of the boarding school she is forced to attend. Based on the stories and diaries of Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, this novel set in the early 20th century will appeal to readers 10-14 years old. [Africa; Markham, Beryl; Friendship; Loneliness; Determination (Personality trait); air pilots; Historical fiction]

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Naidoo, Beverly. Burn My Heart. Amistad, 2009, c2007.
Matthew and Mugo have been friends for years even though Matthew is the son of a wealthy landowner and Mugo is a household servant. But everything changes when the Mau Mau uprising begins in 1950s Kenya. Everyone becomes afraid and violence is around every corner. Based on historical events, this novel will appeal to adventurous readers who like books about real life. [Kenya; Historical fiction; Friendship; Racism; Fathers and sons]

Odhiambo, Eucabeth. Auma’s Long Run. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2017.
Auma has dreams. She wants to leave her small Kenyan village – where people all around her are dying – and attend high school. Then maybe – someday – she can become a doctor. Auma also has determination. She works hard and she can run. If she earns high grades and wins a track scholarship, maybe her dreams can come true.
But then her father dies of AIDS and her mother becomes ill. Auma is needed at home to support her siblings. What should she do?
This 297-page novel is not difficult to read. The font is relatively large, the lines of print widely spaced, and the margins generous. But the story is not a fairy tale and there is no simplistic happy ending. Recommended for mature readers 11 years old and up. 

Alexandria of Africa

Walters, Eric. Alexandria of Africa. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2008.

After getting in trouble with the law, a judge sends Alexandria to Kenya to work for an international charity. Away from home and without the luxuries to which she is accustomed, she begins to change her view of life. An easy-to-read young adult novel for readers 12-years-old and up.  [Juvenile delinquency; International agencies; Kenya; Teenagers]


Ellis, Deborah. The Heaven Shop. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
After their father dies of AIDS, Binti and her siblings are sent to neglectful relatives all over Malawi until they are rescued by their grandmother. Recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [AIDS (Disease); Grandparents; Orphans]



Whelan, Gloria. Yatandou. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2007.

“Eight-year-old Yatandou helps the women of her Mali village raise enough money to buy a machine that will replace their pounding sticks.” – CIP. A picture book for readers 8-years-old and up. [Child labor; Mali]


Cunnane, Kelly & Hoda Hadadi. Deep in the Sahara. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013. 

Set in West Africa, this picture book tells the story of a young girl who wants to wear the veiled dress – a malafa – like her mother and older sister. It is recommended as a read-aloud for listeners up to 9 years old. It could also be useful for older students as an introduction to units on religion, customs, and world geography. Includes a glossary and additional information about Mauritania and Islam. 


Yuksel, M.O. One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University. New York: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2022.

This is the true story of a little girl from Tunisia who grew up to “build a school where students, especially the poor and the refugees, could live and study for free.” Fatima loved learning. Even after she and her family had to flee their home due to war, she continued to study. After her father and her husband died, leaving her a wealthy woman, she decided to use her fortune to help her new community in Morocco. She designed and supervised the building of an educational institution of higher learning to which students came from around the world. This university has now been in continuous operation for over one thousand years! 

A brilliant picture book with illustrations by Miriam Quraishi and supplemented with additional information, including a glossary, bibliography and timeline. Most highly recommended for all readers who like learning.   


Secrets in the Fire

Mankell, Henning. Secrets in the Fire. Richmond Hill: Annick Press, 2003.
This novel is based on the true story of an young girl living in war-torn Mozambique who has to flee with her family through a jungle planted with landmines.

Mankell, Henning. Shadow of the Leopard. Toronto: Annick, 2007.
At the age of nine, Sofia lost her legs in a landmine explosion. She still lives in a village in Mozambique and is now expecting her third child. Her beloved Armando works in the city and comes home on Saturdays. Life is hard, but things become much worse when, one weekend, Armando does not return. (back cover) This sequel to Secrets in the Fire is for mature readers only due to subject matter.


The Other Side of Truth

Naidoo, Beverley. The Other Side of Truth. London: Puffin Books, 2000.
“Smuggled out of Nigeria after their mother’s murder, Sade and her younger brother are abandoned in London when their uncle fails to meet them at the airport; they are fearful of their new surroundings and of what may have happened to their journalist father back in Nigeria.” – CIP. “The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo is a story about the way that people in Nigeria are treated differently than we are and how the main characters’ father works for a newspaper. Bit by bit, he starts losing all his social status. The main characters, Sade and Femi, have to be smuggled into London, England, where they find out by they’re not wanted by their uncle who is supposed to be taking care of them and so they’re sent to an adoption agency. They’re sent to three or four homes before finding out where they really belong. It’s a really good book with lots of suspense.” – Karissa in grade 7. Highly recommended for readers in grade 6 and up.


Grk: Operation Tortoise

Doder, Joshua Grk: Operation Tortoise. New York: Delacorte Press, 2007.

“While vacationing in the Seychelles, Tim discovers a well-guarded private island where he learns of a devious plot that threatens the endangered local giant tortoise.” – WAFMS.  Part of an easy-to-read series that travels around the world addressing modern day issues. Recommended for 9 to 13 year old readers. [Adventure stories; Dogs; Endangered species; Turtles]

South Africa


Javaherbin, Mina. Goal! Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2010. 

A group of soccer playing buddies fend off bullies who try to spoil their game of soccer in this picture book set in a South African township. [Bullying; South Africa; Soccer; Friendship]

Picture 5

Kent, Trilby. Stones for My Father. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2011.
Twelve-year-old “Corlie Roux, an Africaner from the Transvaal, copes with many changes after her father dies, war breaks out with the British, and she and the mother who clearly prefers her brothers escape to the bush only to be sent to a concentration camp.” – CIP  Set during the Boer War at the turn of the 19th century, this vivid historical novel – with some swearing – is highly recommended for avid readers in grades 6 and up. The story is much better than the unappealing cover design. [Brothers and sisters; Concentration camps; Historical fiction; Mothers and daughters; South Africa; South African War; Survival]

Journey to Jo'burg

Naidoo, Beverley. Journey to Jo’burg. New York : HarperTrophy, 1988, c1986.

“Separated from their mother by the difficult conditions for blacks in South Africa, Naledi and her younger brother travel over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg.” – CIP. A short powerful novel for readers 11-years-old and up. It could be compared to the longer American novel Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. [South Africa; Voyages and journeys]

Chanda's Secrets

Stratton, Allan.  Chanda’s Secrets. Buffalo, NY : Distributed in the U.S.A. by Firefly Books (U.S.), 2004. 

“Chanda Kabelo, a sixteen-year-old in a small South African town, faces down shame and stigma in her efforts to help friends and family members who are dying of AIDS.” – CIP. A powerful novel for mature readers 12-years-old and up. [AIDS (Disease); South Africa; Teenagers]


Tutu, Desmond and Douglas Carlton Abrams. Desmond and the Very Mean World: a Story of Forgiveness. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2013.

“While riding his new bicycle Desmond is hurt by the mean word yelled at him by a group of boys, but he soon learns that hurting back will not make him feel any better.” – CIP. A picture book for readers of all ages. [Forgiveness; Prejudices; Racism; South Africa]


Benny and Omar

Colfer, Eoin. Benny and Omar. New York : Miramax Books/Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 2007, c1998.

“Benny hates his new life in Tunisia; none of the kids play his favorite sport, and he feels like he just doesn’t fit in, until he is befriended by Omar, a wild boy living on his talent for buying, selling, and fixing things.” – CIP. A fast-moving novel recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old. [Friendship; Moving, Household; Tunisia]


Diamond Boy

Williams, Michael. Diamond Boy. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2014.

“When Patson’s family moved to the Marange region of Zimbabwe he begins working in the mines, searching for blood diamonds, until government soldiers arrive and Patson is forced to journey to South Africa in search of his missing sister and a better life.” – CIP.  For competent readers 12-years-old and up. [Brothers and sisters; Child labor; Diamonds; Mines and mining; Runaways; Shona (African people); Zimbabwe]

Now is the Time for Running

Williams, Michael. Now Is the Time for Running. New York : Little, Brown, 2013, c2009.

“When soldiers attack a small village in Zimbabwe, Deo goes on the run with Innocent, his older, mentally disabled brother, carrying little but a leather soccer ball filled with money, and after facing prejudice, poverty, and tragedy, it is in soccer that Deo finds renewed hope.” – CIP. Recommended for more mature readers.  [Brothers; Homelessness; People with mental disabilities; Refugees; Soccer; Zimbabwe]

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