As part of that session, I am putting together various text sets of picture books that teachers and parents can use to help introduce children to diverse characters and children around the world. The complete handouts from the talk will be available here.
This is the second in a series of posts that provides more details about each of the example text sets. The first post featured books that celebrate the diversity of families and family structures.
Africa is Not a Country
Africa is a diverse continent of more than fifty countries, hundreds of millions of people, and thousands of languages, cultures, and people groups. In order for children to understand some of the immensity of variation, it is important to share books and resources from a wide range of countries, environments, and cultural groups. These books are some of my favorites to share and read aloud in my classroom.
Mauritania: Deep in the Sahara (2013) by Kelly Cunnane and illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Deep in the Sahara is an immersive picture book told in second person, placing you, the reader, as young Lalla, a Muslim girl living in Mauritania in west Africa. During the course of the book, Lalla explores why she wants to wear the malafa like her mother and relatives.
Second-person, present tense narration is tough to pull off and generally rare in literature, but I think that it works well in this book because most of us readers know as little about the malafa and its importance in African Muslim communities than does Lalla. Through her eyes and through the patterning of the text, we all learn an important lesson. (Read a more detailed analysis here.)
Morocco: Ali, Child of the Desert (1997) by Jonathan London and illustrated by Ted Lewin. This coming-of-age story features young Ali who is thrilled to accompany his father across the Sahara Desert for the first time. When a sandstorm strikes, however, he learns just how dangerous the desert can be - if not for the help of strangers. (I was saddened to learn that this book is now out-of-print, but it is well worth searching for at your library.)
Chad: Rain School (2010) by James Rumford. Rain School highlights some of the struggles that children face in getting an education, as well as the great lengths that people will go through to go to school - even if involves building the school itself! Rain School is a bit of a circular story and opens with the first day of school. As the end-is-the-beginning concludes, it helps students to see the impact and importance of this yearly process and how hard these children work for their education. Powerful stuff. (For a more detailed analysis, click here.)
Western, Central, and Eastern Africa
Burkina Faso: The Red Bicycle: the extraordinary story of one ordinary bicycle (2015) by Jude Isabella and illustrated by Simone Shin. The Red Bicycle is a powerful story of the life of one red bicycle and its multiple reincarnations through donation. The story traces the bicycle from its initial purchase by a young boy in North America (Canada) to a young girl in Africa (Burkina Faso) to a young hospital employee (also in Burkina Faso) and beyond. This is a great story for sharing with kids the power of one person (or one bike) to make a difference.
Ghana: Emmanuel's Dream: the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah (2015) by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls. Emmanuel's Dream is the powerful true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a boy who does not let his disability define himself or his character. The book highlights his constant perseverance and determination. In order to learn, he hops to school, two miles each way, and must earns the respect and friendship of his classmates. Emmanuel even learns to ride a bike with only one good leg.
This book is a great story and a great tribute to a young man who is still working to change laws and the minds of people.This book will inspire children to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them too. (Read a more detailed analysis here.)
Kenya: Seeds of Change (2013) by Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler. This is now the fourth picture book biography of Wangari Maathai that I have read, and I think it might be my new favorite. (You can read more about the other biographies in the post Biographies about People and Trees.) These biographies focus on the incredible work on Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who encouraged others in Kenya to plant trees. I love the bright colors of the illustrations here and the emphasis on telling her life's story.
South Africa: Happy Birthday, Jamela! (2006) by Niki Daly. I always check out a large collection of books by Niki Daly during our Africa unit, including both his wonderful folktales and his series of Jamela books. This is one I have shared as a read aloud. Jamela is a spunky character who makes creative but impulsive decisions, sometimes with disastrous consequences, but they always work out in the end. She is a very relate-able character for my third graders. (Jamela lives in a big city in South Africa like Niki Daly.)
Zimbabwe: Where Are You Going, Manyoni? (1993) by Catherine Stock. This story follows a young girl on her long walk to school and does a great job of highlighting the many different animals and environments in her part of Zimbabwe.
Do you have a favorite picture book that highlights the diversity of people, languages, and cultures in Africa? Please share in the comments below! For more text sets on diverse topics, please click here.