Lending Library: Middle School

At her majesty’s request

Author: Myers, Walter Dean Myers (1999)
Type: Biography
Illustrations: Some
Description: Walter Dean Myers discovered a body of letters concerning Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a princess from the 19th century kingdom of Dahomey. They tell a story of  one terrifying night in 1848 when a young African princess’s village is raided by warriors. The invaders kill her mother and father, the King and Queen, and take her captive. Two years later, a British naval captain rescues her and takes her to England where she is presented to Queen Victoria, and becomes a loved and respected member of the royal court. Illustrated with historical photographs and drawings, this is an extraordinary story of royalty on two continents, colonialism, race, class, and identity. ©Author

Chanda’s secrets

Author: Stratton, Allan (2004)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: Sixteen-year-old Chanda Kabelo has secrets. She loves school and dreams of winning a scholarship one day, but people are dying around her. Everyone is afraid to say why, but Chanda knows: it’s because of AIDS. Chanda’s Secrets takes place in a nameless country that accurately resembles a place where over a quarter of the population is living with HIV. Chanda’s struggles are similar to millions of other children living in Sub Saharan Africa. Having lost her father, stepfather, three older brothers, sister and several community members, Chanda quickly moves from the playful ignorance of youth to an adult life, even though it is difficult for her to understand some of what is happening around her. Though the Hollywood ending makes the story slightly unrealistic, Chanda gives a face and a story to connect teen readers with the statistics they hear in the news. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Child of dandelions

Author: Shenaaz Nanji (2008)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: This work of historical fiction tells the story of Sabine, a 15-year Ugandan citizen of Indian ancestry whose life of luxury falls apart once Idi Amin comes to power. Her father thinks they’ll be safe because they are citizens, but they soon realize that they are not safe from the terror, violence, and prejudices that dominate the times. The story is a suspenseful tale with realistic, yet loveable characters.

Child of dandelions




Author: Jan, Michael (2009)

Description: After Sam’s mother dies of AIDS, Sam’s grief is compounded by culture shock when he goes to live with his aunt’s family in the small Malawi village where his mother grew up. He and his mother had lived in the city, where he attended private school and lacked nothing, from the latest computer game to fancy running shoes. Those shoes, and the few books he brought with him, become a symbol of his difficulty adapting to village life. Sam’s cousins and the other boy who lives with his aunt are fascinated by Sam’s things. Sam does not want to share, but in his aunt’s spare home sharing is a way of life. His aunt is loving, firm, and clear on her expectations for Sam as his painful struggle to fit in is complicated by his sense of loss and sadness. Sam’s changing living situation and the details surrounding it, from the AIDS crisis to the contrast between urban and rural living, are made accessible and understandable for readers in this affecting story. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Deogratias: A tale of Rwanda

Author: Stassen (2006)
Type: Graphic novel
Illustrations: Yes
Description: The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Bénigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Bénigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death. As the story circles around but never depicts the terror and brutality of an entire country descending into violence, we watch Deogratias in his pursuit of Bénigne, and we see his grief and descent into madness following her death, as he comes to believe he is a dog.

Told with great artistry and intelligence, this book offers a window into a dark chapter of recent human history and exposes the West’s role in the tragedy. Stassen’s interweaving of the aftermath of the genocide and the events leading up to it heightens the impact of the horror, giving powerful expression to the unspeakable, indescribable experience of ordinary Hutus caught up in the violence. Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a major work by a masterful artist. © Africa Access

From Somalia with love

Author: Na’ima B. Robert (2009)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: My name is Safia Dirie. My family has always been my mum, Hoyo, and my two older brothers, Ahmed and Abdullahi. I don’t really remember Somalia – I’m an East London girl, through and through. But now Abo, my father, is coming from Somalia to live with us, after 12 long years. How am I going to cope? Safia knows that there will be changes ahead but nothing has prepared her for the reality of dealing with Abo’s cultural expectations, her favourite brother Ahmed’s wild ways, and the temptation of her cousin Firdous’s party-girl lifestyle. Safia must come to terms with who she is – as a Muslim, as a teenager, as a poet, as a friend, but most of all as a daughter to a father she has never known. Safia must find her own place in the world, so both father and daughter can start to build the relationship they both long for. From Somalia With Love is one girl’s quest to discover who she is – a story that, while rooted in Somali and Muslim life, strikes a chord with young people everywhere. © Africa Access

No tigers in Africa – A novel

Author: Silver, Norman (1990)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: Newly arrived in England from South Africa, a fifteen-year-old’s family deteriorates as the effects of living under apartheid take a toll on every aspect of the family members’ lives.







No turning back – A novel of South Africa

Author: Naidoo, Beverley (1995)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: No Turning Back addresses the problems of post-apartheid South Africa. Although a new regime governs the country, changes in the economy, society, and education have not filtered down to the poor as quickly as anticipated. Young adolescent boys still find that poverty and crime in the townships are too much to endure. Sipho like other boys flees Soweto and goes to middle class neighborhoods in Johannesburg where he can live with a group of young sidewalk entrepreneurs. His payment is in kind (food, lodging, and schooling) rather than money. Despite his improved lifestyle, this arrangement keeps him still dependent. Finally, Sipho goes to a shelter where he can live and attend school, he returns to Soweto only to visit his mother. No Turning Back contains a hopeful message for South African youth, portraying Nelson Mandela’s vision through Sipho for a more tolerant country. © Africa Access

Now is the time for running

Author: Williams, Michael (2011).

Description: Fifteen-year-old Deo and his older, developmentally disabled brother Innocent barely survive a massacre by government soldiers in their Zimbabwe village. In the aftermath, they head for South Africa, making the dangerous crossing into that nation with a guide and a handful of other refugees. They eventually end up in Johannesburg, where they are taken in by a small group of refugees living inside a bridge. Deo’s world is shattered a second time when anger and xenophobia explodes in a series of violent attacks against refugees. Jump ahead two years and he is living on the streets of Cape Town, getting high as often as he can to keep memories at bay, when he’s spotted by a coach of the South African Street Soccer Team. Soccer had been one of the joys of Deo’s life in Zimbabwe. Now he is given a chance to train with and try out for the team that will represent South Africa in the Homeless World Cup. But in order for this group of young men and women comprised of native South Africans and refugees from other African nations to become a South African team, they must revisit their painful pasts together, sharing their stories as a means of understanding how much they have in common. Told in Deo’s compelling voice, author Michael Williams’ gripping and ultimately uplifting story illuminates the strength and vulnerability of the human spirit while skillfully navigating and ultimately challenging xenophobia in South Africa. Williams provides additional information about xenophobia in South Africa and the Homeless World Cup in author’s notes. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Rise of the golden cobra

Author: Aubin, Henry (2007); Taylor, Stephen (illus)

Description: A young scribe with revenge on his mind. A pharaoh’s war for the honor of Egypt. An action-packed tale from ancient history. During a picnic overlooking the Nile, 14-year-old scribe Nebi spots the riders first. Led by the treacherous Count Nimlot, the raiding party slaughters Nebi’s master, the region’s head of police. Although wounded, Nebi — knowing that the pharaoh’s northern territory is no longer secure — escapes as the only living witness.

Nebi’s adventures take him to the court of Piankhy himself, to friendship with feisty Prince Shebitku, and to war. Fierce battles culminate in the siege of Memphis, where Nebi finally confronts Nimlot and his own desire for revenge. Well-served by the pharaoh’s honorable example, Nebi finds release in letting Nimlot live. Meanwhile, Piankhy’s victory unites North and South Egypt, making him the one true pharaoh entitled to wear the golden cobra crown.

Bursting with action and political intrigue, and rich in historical detail and dramatic illustrations, Rise of the Golden Cobra is an epic adventure for the ages. © Africa Access

The African mask

Author: Rupert, Janet (2005)

Type: Novel
Description: 900 years ago in the Yoruba land of present-day Nigeria, 12-year-old Layo spends her time working on her craft and honing her skills in pottery, a gift passed on to her from her grandmother. However, in this time and place, a woman must adopt the craft of her husband. When she is betrothed to5a bronze worker, Layo works hard to prove the match is a poor one. Rupert’s work with a Yoruba anthropologist enriches the text with meaningful accounts of ancient Yoruba culture and life.




The Beduin’s gazelle

Author: Temple, Frances Nolting (1998)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: Few books for adolescents portray Islamic culture. And fewer books describe the struggles of adolescents of the fourteenth century in North Africa. As the book opens, Atiyah prepares to leave the desert life of southeastern Berber Morocco to study Arabic, jurisprudence, and Islam at the university in Fez. This period of intellectual inquiry among the Arabs occurred at a time when Europeans were languishing in disease, poverty, and war. Despite his efforts to stay with his extended family, Atiyah must bid his beloved cousin Halima farewell as she will remain in the village to learn domestic activities. While his family continues to move through the desert with their herds of goats and camels, Halima becomes lost in a sandstorm. She is found by men of the family’s rival Beni Shummar and subsequently betrothed to their sheik. Atiyah must find her before the impending wedding ceremony. © Africa Access

The bite of the mango

Author: Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland (2008)
Type: Biography
Illustrations: Maps
Description: As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. As told to her by Mariatu, journalist Susan McClelland has written the heartbreaking true story of the brutal attack and its aftermath. © Africa Access



The captive

Author: Hansen, Joyce (1995)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: This perceptive historical novel won the 1995 African Studies Children’s Book Award for Older Readers. It contrasts two cultures, the Asante kingdom of Ghana and New England during the era of slavery. Inspired by the life of Olaudah Equiano. This novel, inspired by a journal written in the late 1700s, is about the capture of Kofi, a 12-year-old son of an Ashanti chief. The boy is taken and subsequently sold after his father is betrayed and murdered by a trusted family slave. He makes two friends on the trip across the ocean; one is a white indentured servant, the other is another black slave. Once they reach America, they are all sold to a Puritan farmer in Massachusetts. Eventually, the boys run away. They are chased onto a ship and discovered by its captain, who agrees to help them. © Africa Access

The heaven shop

Author: Ellis, Deborah  (2004)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: Binti and her siblings are orphaned when their father dies of AIDS. Split up and sent to relatives all over Malawi, they suffer increasing hardship. Binti learns the hard way what is most important in life, and is forced to take a hard look at her own. Historically and culturally sensitive, The Heaven Shop is respectful and informative. It doesn’t shy away from dealing with difficult issues, nor does it sugar coat them. Instead, the story deals realistically with customs of inheritance without making gross generalizations or judgments about what is done. It is easy to envision life in Malawi because the story is filled with rich description of the Malawian landscape and day-to-day life, from second-hand clothing being sold on the side of a road to lines of women and children waiting to get water in rural areas. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

The middle of somewhere – A story of South Africa

Author: Gordon, Sheila (1990)
Language: English
Type: Chapter book
Description: This contemporary novel, set in South Africa, reveals how that government’s policies affect a black child, her family and their friends. When plans are made to raze Rebecca’s village in order to build a new suburb for whites, officials try to force residents to move to a dismal settlement many miles away. Although her father and brother refuse to be intimidated, Rebecca is terrified that white men will bulldoze her house. Her fears increase when friends begin to disappear in the night and her own father is arrested after making a public speech. Gordon offers a graphic portrayal of life in a troubled nation as she depicts Rebecca’s experiences at home and in the white community, where her mother works as a maid. Rebecca is initiated into a world filled with prejudice, but before she grows as embittered as her older brother, she witnesses some signs of positive change. © Africa Access

The mzungu boy

Author: Meja Mwangi (2005)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: This book tells an important story of settler colonialism in Kenya. Mzungu Boy offers a tonic to the disturbingly widespread Out of Africa syndrome, where the whites are strong pioneers out there alone facing an unforgiving environment. In Mzungu Boy we learn the same story, but from the opposite perspective, that of a young boy whose father works long harsh hours as the cook for a white settler family. We still see the strong white pioneer, but now as a deeply feared, cruel and seemingly omnipotent stranger. The novel is set in the early 1950s as the MauMau movement was gathering strength in the “White” Highlands. When the boy Kariuki meets “mzungu” (white guy), the grandson of the plantation owner, the story takes off. As the boys become closer friends, their surrounding world becomes more fearful and violent. Still, the two boys try to have fun together and understand each other’s strange ways. Ultimately, their friendship is one of several causes of the brutal murder of Kariuki’s brother by the settler police. Yet the boys’ friendship somehow perseveres because they aren’t old enough to understand that colonialism is irredeemably distorting their lives and will undoubtedly end up destroying their friendship. © Africa Access

Why monkeys live in trees and other stories from Benin

Author: Raouf Mama (2006)
Description: Benin, formerly Dahomey, is in West Africa. It is a country rich in oral stories, passed on from generation to generation. Raouf Mama, a storyteller himself as well as a teacher and orator, draws on this rich tradition and includes stories from many of Benin’s indigenous groups. Mama is wise enough to include many types of stories in his collection, tricksters, fables, heroes, sacred stories and other types of stories, each with its own moral. The stories include: Come and hear my story — Blessed are the storytellers, for they are the keepers of the word — Why monkeys live in trees — Why the sun shines by day and the moon by night — Why bee makes honey and snake crawls on its belly — How goat got out of trouble. © Africa Access

Author: Mead, Alice (2003)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: Stephen, a young Dinka, lives in a village in Sudan with his mother and his elder sister, Naomi. His father has vanished, gone off to the war. Stephen’s concerns are those of any older child in such a village: his family, the cows he tends and on which the village depends, and his sister’s impending marriage. The echoes of the distant war build, until suddenly the village is raided by soldiers looking for food. Stephen and two other boys escape to the forest; his sister Naomi hides. The next day, Stephen and the other boys return to find the village destroyed, Stephen’s mother dead, and Naomi vanished.
The book ends on a hopeful but realistic note as the children start to try to re-establish life among the ruins. © Africa Access