Great Children's Books About Africa

Tired of generic "African" children's books that don't mention particular cultures or countries? Check out Africa Access, a nonprofit founded in 1989 to help schools, public libraries, and parents improve the quality of their children's collection on Africa.

The Africa Access Review Database contains over 1000 annotations and reviews of children's books written by university professors, librarians, and teachers, most of whom have lived in Africa and have graduate degrees in African Studies.

And this November 13-16 in Chicago during the Teachers' Workshop at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association, Africa Access will present the 2008 Children’s Africana Book Awards, established in 1991 by the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials on Africa in U.S. schools and libraries.

This year, Ifeoma Onyefulu is the winner of the Best Book for Young Children award for Ikenna goes to Nigeria (London, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2007). The book focuses on Onyefulu’s son Ikenna and photographs his visit to his mother’s Nigerian homeland.

Honors for Young Children go to Kathleen Mariarty and Amin Amir for Wiil Waal (St. Paul, Minnesota Humanities Center/Somali Bilingual Book Project, 2007), a bilingual presentation of a folktale about a 19th century Somali sultan.

Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie are the winners of the Best Book for Older Readers award for Aya (Montreal, Drawn & Quarterly, 2007), a graphic novel that offers an insider’s view of teenage life in a lively Abidjan neighborhood.

Honor Book winners for Older Readers are Henry Aubin for Rise of the Golden Cobra (Toronto, Annick Press, 2007), a novel set in ancient Kush and Egypt, and Ishmael Beah for A Long Way Gone (New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), a recent war story and autobiographical account of a child soldier in the civil war in Sierra Leone. (Read Slate's overview of the controversy surrounding this memoir if you're curious.)