Enchanting African children’s books

Literature is an integral component of building language and communication skills. Therefore, bedtime stories and children’s books are the perfect way to hand down stories, and to preserve African culture for generations to come. Moreover, they impart knowledge, lessons, and teach children about the world. Here are some great children’s books by African authors to read to your little ones tonight.


The Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor, Mehrdokht Amini

Nigeria

Anyaugo is a young girl who spots a giant chicken in the kitchen on the eve of the New Yam Festival which threatens to ruin all the preparation (and food!) for the next day. Aided by her friend, a nature spirit, she follows it and all sorts of madness ensues. This book is ideal for ages four and above, and includes lovely illustrations from Amini.

chicken kitchen 

Who is King? Ten Magical Stories from Africa by Berveley Naidoo, Piet Grobler

South Africa

Follow the tales of Africa’s animals as they live together and find out why the hippo has no hair, how the elephant got his trunk, how the tortoise played a trick, and who is king of the animal kingdom. It draws from stories from all around the continent, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Malawi, all with lots of song and dance.

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Safari ya Angani by Francis Atulo

Kenya

This book is written in Swahili, and tells the much-told story of how the tortoise got its cracked shell. Determined to eat the clouds, the crows fly the tortoise up to the sky. However, they soon lose their grip on him and the tortoise crashes to the ground, breaking his shell in the process.

safari ya gyani 

The Magic Gourd by Baba Wagué Diakité

Mali

This is a heart-warming book about generosity and the virtues of sharing. In it, a rabbit rescues a chameleon, who then rewards him with a magic gourd that always fills itself with water and food. However, a king intent on gaining wealth steals it away from him. Will the rabbit ever recover his gift? And what will happen to the king?

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My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel, E.B. Lewis

Tanzania

This is a book about a boy who hopes to help his mother carry loads to the market once he is able to buy a red and blue bike. He saves up for the purchase and teaches himself how to ride a bike. However, when the time comes, he does not have enough coins to buy the bike. What will he do? This is definitely a sweet story with an even sweeter ending.

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Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

Nigeria

Although this book is for older children (ages ten and above), its powerful imagery and magical storyline make it a must have on this list. Zahrah was born with vines in her hair and is therefore considered to have magical powers, despite the fact that she does not agree. Soon, however, strange things start to happen and she must be brave in order to save her best friend’s life.

zahrah windseeker

Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu

South Africa

Since most children suffer bullying and teasing at some point in their lives, this book is a great way to teach them how to respond to name calling. Desmond is called a mean name by a group of boys, and retaliates in the way of an insult. However, with the help of a priest, Father Trevor, he learns to forgive.

desmond and the very mean word