Region: Eastern Africa

                                                                       General Eastern Africa

Fatuma’s new cloth

Author: Leslie Bulion (2002); Nicole, Tadgell(illus.)
Description: Fatuma’s New Cloth is a charming story about a little East African girl who visits the market with her mother in order to purchase kanga cloth for a new dress. During her trip to the market, Fatuma helps us explore the East African perception of the world as she learns about her people’s culture and traditions. Fatuma also comes to learn that different people have different opinions and that they may interpret things very differently. This is especially apparent in her experiences in buying the kanga cloth and her favorite drink, chai, a tea that is commonly prepared and served amongst East Africans. We learn the importance of the market in the life of Fatuma’s community and see how she interacts with each of the vendors at the market, where in time, she will learn the skills she needs to bargain and purchase goods to take home to her family. We also learn about the social importance of kanga cloth in East Africa. Kanga cloth is a colorful printed cotton cloth with traditional motifs that is usually bought in pairs to be worn by both women and men in East Africa (predominantly Kenya and Tanzania) as part of their daily dress. © Africa Access


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 mangrove tree

Author & Illustrator: Roth, L. Susan; & Trumbore, Cindy (2011)

Description:  “These are the trees, / Mangrove trees, / That were planted by the sea. / These are the seedlings / That grew into trees, / Mangrove trees, / That were planted by the sea.” A cumulative narrative is one dimension of this picture book that tells how a project planting mangrove trees in the village of Hargigo, Eritrea, resulted in vibrant resource renewal. A more detailed narrative on the facing page of each spread describes how the trees were planted and their positive impact on the ecology and economy. They improve air quality. They provide food for animals and habitat for sea creatures, which in turn means food for the people to eat and sell. This inspired account is set against Susan L. Roth’s marvelous collage artwork. An afterword illustrated with photographs provides information about Japanese American scientist Dr. Gorton Sato’s work helping the people of Hargigo combat hunger with the mangrove tree project. Sato believes mangrove forests are one of the answers to poverty and hunger in the world.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center


Rise of the golden cobra

Author: Leontyne Price (1997); Leo & Diane Dillon (illus.)
Description: An exquisite, picture book retelling of Verdi’s famous opera about an Ethiopian princess who falls in love with her Egyptian captor. It treats the universal concepts of patriotism, love, and the conflict of loyalty in simple and beautiful language. The plot is so well constructed and presented that, in spite of its familiarity, there is a desire to read it again and again. Here are two persons from two warring nations, patriotic to the core to their own countries and yet willing to give up their lives for the sake of love. The theme transcends love and brings to the fore the questions of devotion and courage which are so necessary for human existence. Lavishly illustrated with colorful scenes, it is the kind of book that will appeal not only to children of African descent but to all humanity. © Africa Access


14 cows for America

Author: Carmen Agra Deedy (2002); Gonzalez, Thomas (illus.)
Description: This picture book, based on a true story, describes how a remote Maasai village in Kenya honored Americans in the aftermath of the September 2001 attack on the New York Trade Center. A group of Maasai, led by a young Maasai man who lives in New York, dedicated 14 cows to the families of the deceased and vowed that these cows would never be slaughtered. The book is a tribute to the lost Americans and shows the compassion felt for U.S. citizens, in the wake of 9/11, even from rural Kenya. The story is very moving as are the illustrations. Unfortunately the author uses misleading words – “tribe,” “hut” and “fierce” – that reinforce stereotypes and detract from the story. Nevertheless, the importance of the cow as a gift is explained with respect. Cows represent life. The final message of the story is powerfully presented. © Africa Access

Bonyo Bonyo

Author: Oelschlager Vanita (2010); Kristin Blackwood & Mike Blanc (illus.)

Description: When he was a child, Bonyo Bonyo’s baby sister died. That sad event was the start of a hopeful dream: someday he would build a hospital in his village in western Kenya. This first-person picture book narrative tells how young Bonyo was able to fulfill that dream through education obtained with steadfast support from his family despite the sacrifices required, and countless other acts of generosity and kindness. “In my village there was a word that meant togetherness. That word was ‘harambee.’ I will never forget how everyone helped me.” Bonyo attended medical school in Akron, Ohio (where he practices medicine today), and was able to return to Kenya fifteen years after leaving and turn his dream into a reality. He established a medical mission and a clinic in his home village named in honor of his mother. Illustrations rendered with heavy black lines and colorful hues provide the backdrop for this inspiring profile. A photograph of the real Bonyo and more information about his work in Kenya is included.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Mama Miti

Author: Napoli Jo Donna (2010); Kadir, Nelson (illus.)

Description: A heartfelt tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who founded Kenya’s Green Belt Movement to combat deforestation, condenses years of activism into a lyrical narrative focusing on Wangari’s impact on both the lives of women and the Kenyan environment. Author Donna Jo Napoli imagines a series of scenes in which women from across Kenya come to Wangari to share their troubles—too little food, too little firewood, dirty water. “Plant a tree,” Wangari tells each one. She suggests a different tree for each trouble—the mukawa thorns will keep predators from chickens; the mukuyu will filter water to clean streams. And she always concludes each encounter with “thaya nyumba—Peace my people.” Kadir Nelson’s lush illustrations, done with oil paint and printed fabrics, show a greening country and the grace and beauty of those who are bringing it back to life. An afterword and author’s note provide brief, factual information about Maathai as well as sources for this account of her work.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Mimi’s Village

Author: Katie Smith Milway (2012); Eugenie, Fernandes (illus.)

In this fictionalized story about a real humanitarian problem facing many countries in the developing world today, readers meet Mimi, an ordinary girl from an ordinary family in Africa. When her younger sister, Nakkissi, gets very sick after drinking unsterilized water from the stream, Mimi learns firsthand how quickly things can go terribly wrong. With no health care provider close by, her whole family must travel on foot to a nearby village to see the one nurse who can provide the medical care her sister desperately needs. Though Mimi is relieved when her sister recovers, she wishes they could get a health clinic in her own village. Several months later, it is Mimi herself who becomes the catalyst to make her wish come true. Author Katie Smith Milway, a former aid worker in Africa, has written the best kind of global education book for children, filled with information that engenders empathy and understanding. The picture-book format with captivating artwork by award-winning illustrator Eugenie Fernandes brings Mimi’s story to life. Along with further information, a glossary and a map, an addendum includes suggestions for how young children can get involved, highlighting how inexpensive, easy-to-make improvements can transform people’s lives. This terrific book would find many uses in elementary classrooms, including lessons on African culture, African family life and the basic health care needs of people everywhere. Most important, it offers opportunities for inspiring discussions about compassion, volunteerism and making a difference in one’s own community and the larger world community. © Africa Access

Planting the Trees of Kenya

Author: Claire Nivola (2008).
Description: As a child in the highlands of Kenya, Wangari Maathai did not know that she would grow up to be the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She only knew that she cared for the emerald-covered earth where fig trees, olive trees, crotons, and flame trees grew as far as the eye could see. Wangari left Kenya as a young woman to study biology in the United States. When she returned home, only five years later, she barely recognized the landscape she loved. Small farms that had once dotted the hillsides had expanded; large plantations had been established. As far as Wangari could see, dusty brown earth and tree stumps littered the land. The economy and landscape had changed drastically, and not for the better—Kenya was suffering. Wangari decided to plant trees. She urged women and children to plant trees as well, and taught them how. Claire A. Nivola, with delicate, detailed paintings and thoughtful prose, conveys the challenges Wangari Maathai faced in the development of the Kenyan Green Belt Movement. Since Wangari began her work thirty years ago, more than thirty million trees have been planted in her country.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Seeds of Change

Author: Johnson, Jen Cullerton (2013); Sonia Lynn Sadler (illus.)
Description: The picture book is based on Wangari Maathai’s life story as a scientist and as the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The book begins by describing Wangari as a young girl in Kenya to her life after completing education in Kenya and moving to the United States for higher education. Also it tells of her activism after she returns home from the United States, where she becomes passionate about tree planting that leads to the formation of the Green Belt Movement. © 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

Unbowed: A Memoir

Author: Wangari Maathai (2007)
Type: Autobiography
Description: In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come. © Africa Access


Baking Cakes in Kigali

Author: Gaile Parkin (2010)
Type: Novel
Description: Set in an international apartment complex in Rwanda, heroine Angel Tungararza has moved from Tanzania with her husband, Pius, who’s taken a job at the local university; before long, she develops a reputation as a masterful baker and a sagacious friend. Though haunted by the deaths of her grown daughter and son, Angel plunges back into motherhood, caring for her five grandchildren, tending to Pius, baking cakes and dispensing advice. Meanwhile, the sour undercurrents of AIDS and genocide play quiet but instrumental parts in shaping Angel’s world. © Africa Access



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. © 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


In our village: Kambi ya Simba through the eyes of its youth

Illustrations: Photographs (taken by students in the village)
Description: What Kids Can Do, a U.S.-based NGO, and students at Awet Secondary School in the village of Kambi ya Simba, Tanzania collaborate to show and explain life in their village.






My rows and piles of coins

Author: Tololwa, M. Mollel (1999); E. B. Lewis (illus.)
Description: In this story set in Tanzania, the protagonist is a Maasai boy, living in a rural northern area. His father grows an export crop (coffee), his mother markets other crops, and he, Saruni, helps them both, especially his mother. Using an old squeaky wheelbarrow he hauls his mother’s beans, corn, pumpkins and other crops to market. Industrious and thrifty, he saves the coins he earns helping mother, patiently waiting for the day he can buy the bicycle he has his heart set on. Eventually, he gets a bike but it is not new and it comes to him in a surprising way. He shows no disappointment. He is delighted he has a bike of his own, one that he can use to help his mother. The story presents opportunities for discussing a number of topics. We learn, for example, that some parts of Africa are chilly during North America summers, that women play important economic roles in the family and community, and that a bicycle can be an important economic asset. A glossary of Maasai terms and author’s note about Tanzanian currency complete the book.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center


Beatrice’s goat

Author: Page McBrier (2003); Karin Littlewood (illus.)
Description: Beatrice’s Goat is the result of the Heifer Project director’s request for Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter to create a children’s book. In order for the author and illustrator to comprehend the linkages between rural Perry, Arkansas and Kisinga, Uganda, they traveled to Uganda to document the true story of Beatrice and the Heifer Project goat. Beatrice’s goat, Mugisa, has brought many new things to the family. The story describes how the sale of Mugisa’s milk and two kids financed a new house, roof, furniture, and schooling for Beatrice. The steady income from the goat enables the family to buy medicines, clothing, and needed supplies. Soon Beatrice’s friend will also have a goat. The book illustrates positive results of a non-profit organization; since so much news from Uganda is negative, it is important for readers to learn that Ugandans are working to improve their lives. The book also focuses on children, their schooling, and responsibilities, rather than on what adults do to or for children. © Africa Access

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.