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25 Beautiful African Children's Books To Learn Life Lessons

25 Beautiful African Children's Books To Learn Life Lessons

Reading to your kids is a great thing to do. Books are a fantastic way to nourish their imagination and learn about the world, people, different cultures, and so much more. They are also a great way to instil valuable life lessons for your child.

Keeping in line with African-themed children's books, we thought it would be a great idea to compile a list of beautiful books with great life lessons for kids.

If you are interested in exploring our other booklists, we would recommend that you check out the following: South African Children's books, children's books by African Authors, picture books on African folklore, African culture kids books to start you off.

Lesson on bravery

Chike and the River

Chike and the River Eleven-year-old Chike longs to cross the Niger River to the city of Asaba, but he doesn’t have the sixpence he needs to pay for the ferry ride. With the help of his friend S.M.O.G., he embarks on a series of adventures to help him get there. Along the way, he is exposed to a range of new experiences that are both thrilling and terrifying, from eating his first skewer of suya under the shade of a mango tree, to visiting the village magician who promises to double the money in his pocket. Once he finally makes it across the river, Chike realizes that life on the other side is far different from his expectations, and he must find the courage within him to make it home. 


Chike and the River is a magical tale of boundaries, bravery, and growth, by Chinua Achebe, one of the world’s most beloved and admired storytellers.

Recommended Age: 8 - 11 years 

 

Lesson on courage

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of SudanBased on heartbreaking yet inspirational true events in the lives of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Brothers in Hope is a story of remarkable courage, and an amazing testament to the unyielding power of the human spirit.

Recommended Age: 7 - 9 years 

  

Lesson on determination

Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time

Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time - Young Nya takes little sister Akeer along on the two-hour walk to fetch water for the family. But Akeer becomes too ill to walk, and Nya faces the impossible: her sister and the full water vessel together are too heavy to carry. As she struggles, she discovers that if she manages to take one step, then another, she can reach home and Mama’s care. Bold, impressionistic paintings by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brian Pinkney evoke the dry, barren landscape and the tenderness between the two sisters. An afterword discusses the process of providing clean water in South Sudan to reduce waterborne illness.

Recommended Age: 4 - 7 years 

 

Lesson on disability 

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is an inspiring true story


Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. 

Recommended Age: 4 - 8 years  

Sosu's Call

Sosu's Call - When a great storm threatens, Sosu, an African boy who is unable to walk, joins his dog Fusa in helping save their village. 

The only other people in the village at this time were those who were too old and frail to do anything. There were many like that in the village. Often, they were left with the very young children. They could all be trapped and drowned if the sea continued to rise ..

Recommended Age: 4 - 10 years  

 

Lesson on empathy

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle - In this unique nonfiction picture book, the main character is a bicycle that starts its life like so many bicycles in North America, being owned and ridden by a young boy. The boy, Leo, treasures his bicycle so much he gives it a name --- Big Red. But eventually Leo outgrows Big Red, and this is where the bicycle's story takes a turn from the everyday, because Leo decides to donate it to an organization that ships bicycles to Africa.

Big Red is sent to Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where it finds a home with Alisetta, who uses it to gain quicker access to her family's sorghum field and to the market. Then, over time, it finds its way to a young woman named Haridata, who has a new purpose for the bicycle --- renamed Le Grand Rouge --- delivering medications and bringing sick people to the hospital.

Recommended Age: 8 - 12 years  

The Butter Man

The Butter Man - While Nora waits impatiently for dinner, her father stirs up a story from his childhood. During a famine Nora's grandfather must travel over the mountain to find work so he can provide food for his family. While young Ali waits for his father's return, he learns a lesson of patience, perseverance, and hope. Fold-art illustrations capture the Moroccan culture and landscape. A Junior Library Guild selection.

Recommended Age: 6 - 9 years  

Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya

Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya - On market day, Mama Panya's son Adika invites everyone he sees to a pancake dinner. How will Mama Panya ever feed them all? This clever and heartwarming story about Kenyan village life teaches the importance of sharing, even when you have little to give. Includes educational endnotes about life in Kenya.

Recommended Age: 4 - 8 years  

Lesson on exploring different cultures

Masai and I

Masai and I - In school one day, a little girl named Linda learns about East Africa and a tall, proud people called the Masai. She feels a kinship with them and imagines how her life would be if she lived there. She would live in a circle of huts in a tiny village instead of her apartment building. Instead of having a hamster as a pet, she would live among the giraffes and zebras on the African plain.

Linda’s observations celebrate things that are different and things that are the same, as her imagination opens the door to a place where Masai might become Masai and I.

Recommended Age: 4 - 7 years

Boundless Grace

Boundless Grace - When Grace gets the opportunity to go to Africa and visit with her father and his new family, she feels a little strange. But Nana says families are what you make them, and Grace is going to make the most of hers! 

Recommended Age: 4 - 8 years

 

Lesson on female leadership

African children's story books

Idia of the Benin Kingdom

Idia of the Benin Kingdom is an African folklore about Queen Idia of the ancient Kingdom of Benin. The young heroine sees her future in a dream and works her way to becoming one of the most loved, praised, and successful queens of the African Kingdom of Benin.

The book is beautifully illustrated to keep the kids engrossed. This story will teach your children about obedience, practicing one's art, and believing dreams can come true.

Recommended Ages: 4 -12 years

African children's story books

Njinga of Ngondo and Matamba

Njinga of Ngondo and Matamba is another great African folklore based on the story of Queen Njinga, a renowned African legend. Queen Anna Njinga (circa 1581-1663) of Angola bravely fought against slave trade and European influence in the seventeenth century.

The book teaches the historical truth behind Queen Njinga's story of bravery in a simple and relatable manner to today's kids.

Recommended Age: 4 - 12 years

 

Lesson on following dreams

Me . . . Jane

Me . . . Jane tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of "a life living with and helping all animals," until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall's autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young--and young at heart.

Recommended Age: 1 - 8 years

 

Lesson on generosity

My Rows And Piles Of Coins

My Rows And Piles Of Coins - “I emptied my secret money box, arranged the coins in piles and the piles in rows . . .” The market is full of wonderful things, but Saruni is saving his precious coins for a red and blue bicycle. How happy he will be when he can help his mother carry heavy loads to market on his very own bicycle—and how disappointed he is to discover that he hasn’t saved nearly enough!

Determination and generosity are at the heart of this satisfying tale set in Tanzania and illustrated with glowing watercolors that capture the warmth of Saruni’s family and the excitement of market day.

Recommended Age: 4 - 7 years

 

Lesson on invention

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family's life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William's windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

Retold for a younger audience, this exciting memoir shows how, even in a desperate situation, one boy's brilliant idea can light up the world. 

Recommended Age: 10 years +

The Water Princess

The Water Princess - With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is a beautiful land. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village. And try as she might, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well. Instead of a crown, she wears a heavy pot on her head to collect the water. After the voyage home, after boiling the water to drink and clean with, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own.


This vibrant, engaging picture book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water.

Recommended Age: 5 - 8 years 

Galimoto

Galimoto - Kondi is determined to make a galimoto—a toy vehicle made of wires. His brother laughs at the idea, but all day Kondi goes about gathering up the wire he needs. By nightfall, his wonderful galimoto is ready for the village children to play with in the light of the moon.

This Reading Rainbow book is a school and library favorite that offers a view of life in the southeast African nation of Malawi, one of the world's least-developed nations.

Recommended Age: 4 - 8 years 

 

Lesson on loving the environment

I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon

I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon - When Tantoh Nforba was a child, his fellow students mocked him for his interest in gardening. Today he's an environmental hero, bringing clean water and bountiful gardens to the central African nation of Cameroon. Authors Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul share Farmer Tantoh's inspiring story.

Recommended Age: 7 - 11 years  

Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World

Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World - As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her -from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States.

After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time. Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Engaging narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of the land and of women's rights.

Recommended Age: 7 - 10 years  

Wangari's Trees Of Peace: A True Story from Africa

Wangari's Trees Of Peace: A True Story from Africa - As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans . . .

Recommended Age: 4 - 7 years  

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia - Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or 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. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person's actions really can make a difference in our world.

Recommended Age: 5 - 9 years  

 

Lesson on problem solving 

Rambunctious Kwame And the Case of The Missing Birthday Banku

Rambunctious Kwame And the Case of The Missing Birthday Banku - Kwame is a boisterous 5-year-old with a huge appetite for life and solving mysteries with his trusty investigative headband. Join Rambunctious Kwame as he sets off on his first of many mystery-solving adventures.It's Kwame's birthday, however, for the first time, he can't find his birthday banku, will this case be the one to thwart his investigative skills?

Recommended Age: All Ages 

 

Lesson on self-esteem

Giraffes Can't Dance

Giraffes Can't Dance is a touching tale of Gerald the giraffe, who wants nothing more than to dance. With crooked knees and thin legs, it's harder for a giraffe than you would think. Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune when he gets some encouraging words from an unlikely friend.With light-footed rhymes and high-stepping illustrations, this tale is gentle inspiration for every child with dreams of greatness.

Recommended Age: 2 - 9 years

Lesson on self-love

Sulwe

Sulwe - Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.


In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

Recommended Age: 4 - 8 years

The Greatest Animal in the Jungle

The Greatest Animal in the Jungle - On Afuwe’s birthday, his godfather, Tortoise, gives him a gift that grants him five wishes. Afuwe’s ultimate wish is to become the greatest animal in the jungle instead of the mouse that he is.


Recommended Age: All Ages 

 

Feel free to add any recommendations in the comments. We would love to discover more African children's books.

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