Africa books for children and teens
Children’s, young adult and teen books about Africa. Africa, a continent of unparalleled diversity and cultural richness, holds an extraordinary allure for young minds seeking knowledge beyond their immediate surroundings. Its vibrant tapestry of nations, languages, traditions, and landscapes takes young learners on a literary journey that will challenge their understanding of the world and all of its peoples. Embracing Africa as a subject of study will provide children with a source of fascination, opening the doors to a multifaceted world awaiting exploration.
At a time when global interconnectedness and intercultural understanding are essential, Africa serves as a captivating lens through which children can read about complex issues and broaden their perspectives. The study of African culture and storytelling infuses intriguing mysteries, myths and histories, from the enigmatic pyramids of Egypt to the mystical rituals of sub-Saharan tribes. The continent’s intricate past will inspire critical thinking and a desire to untangle the threads of colonialism, political struggles, and economic development challenges. African studies also offer a rich terrain for celebrating diversity, nurturing inclusivity and challenging stereotypes.
This list contains 60 African-themed titles, There’s a range of fiction, nonfiction, true stories, picture books, graphic novels, poetry and diaries suitable for school libraries, independent reading and teaching in KS1 and KS2, KS3 and KS4. This list features books by Wakanyi Hoffman and Onyinye Iwu, Niki Daly, Ken Wilson-Max, Yaba Badoe, Wilbur Smith, Namina Forna and Wole Soyinka.
Africa books for children and teens – our recommendations
Africa-themed books for KS1 and KS2
Sala, Mountain Warrior by Wakanyi Hoffman and Onyinye Iwu
When Sala is the only girl on a school mountain climbing trip, she is filled with trepidation and nerves. But her grandmother encourages her with knowledge and wisdom from Samburu storytelling. Thought-provoking and inspirational, this traditional story from Kenya will encourage all children to challenge themselves and not to give up.
What The Elephant Heard by Charlotte Guillain and Sam Usher
Set to atmospheric and emotive watercolours by Sam Usher, Charlotte Guillain’s rhyming couplets tell the first-person narrative of The Matriarch – the mother and leader of a herd of elephants crossing the Savannah to find precious water. Elephants never forget, and we are shown what life used to be like, the impact of humans on the habitat, and how the landscape has changed. A poignant read, this is a valuable resource for teaching KS2 topics about Africa, the environment or endangered species.
On My Papa’s Shoulders by Niki Daly
A young boy in urban South Africa longs for the days when his Papa takes him to school, aloft on his shoulders where he can see far and wide. Exploring the same journey with a different person, offers a new and enlightening point of view each time, whether hurrying, splashing through puddles or feeding the ducks. The illustrations are eye-catching, with a warmth of character detail and a thought-provoking sense of space and perspective. It places younger readers aged 4-7 in the middle of this boy’s life, family and world.
Eco Girl by Ken Wilson-Max
Eve loves caring for the trees, particularly the incredible Baobab tree, and after a surprising turn of events and with the help of her Grandma, she finds herself connected to the future of the forest in ways she could not have imagined. Eco Girl is a positive and informative conservation-themed picture book story with lyrical text that highlights the magnificent Baobab trees and the importance of planting trees, protecting the landscape and combatting climate change in Africa. A cracking follow-up to the bestselling ‘Astro Girl’. Ideal for reading and discussing in KS1.
The One and Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate
The third instalment in The One And Only Ivan series sees Ruby reunited with her caretaker from the African elephant orphanage, bringing back memories of her former life, friendships and the savannah. A compelling animal story, The One and Only Ruby is a classic animal story in the making.
Man-Man and the Tree of Memories by Yaba Badoe
When Man-Man cries out for help, the enchanting Queen of Revels spirits him away to a distant land where the Tree of Memories reveals how the pain of his ancestors is causing his mother’s illness. This incredible story blends the excitement of a modern London carnival with a deep and poignant history of slavery. Man-Man and the Tree of Memories is an inspirational illustrated story to read to classes during Black History Month and to study in KS2 as a diverse text.
Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shaman by Isi Hendrix
12-year-old Adia’s aunt and uncle think she’s possessed by a demon in this fantasy adventure set in a swirling world of superstition inspired by Nigerian mythology. Can Adia harness her superpowers to become a force for good, and save her kingdom in the face of unimaginable danger? Highly immersive, this new series will appeal to UKS2 fans of Nevermoor. Read our full review.
Africa-themed books for KS3 and KS4
Lionheart Girl by Yaba Badoe
Mysticism, dread, and West African witchcraft are all mixed together in this heady and poetic concoction of a modern fable about friendship and loyalty. When Sheba finds her magical skills, she utilises them to uncover dark family secrets that threaten to unravel everything that holds her life together. This work, which is memorable and atmospheric, will be a compelling and interesting read for KS3 book clubs.
Prey Zone: The Serpent’s Lair by Wilbur Smith and Keith Chapman
A deadly virus, dangerous poachers and man-made ‘predasuars’ in wild South Africa fuel this gipping adventure sequel for secondary-aged children. Can Ralph and Robyn outwit their nemesis? A great reading choice for those who enjoy Robert Muchamore, Anthony Horowitz and Mark Walden.
The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna
In this sequel to ‘The Guilded Ones’, there’s a malevolent force threatening Otera, and only Deka’s army can stop it. But the increasingly powerful Deka is facing a crisis of confidence and trust. With a visceral opening, graphic descriptions of war and a fiercely thrilling ending, even the book edges are painted red. Perfect for KS4 and KS5 book clubs, there are plenty of meaty societal and philosophical talking points in Namina Forna’s corrupt and patriarchal fantasy world for teens to discuss and compare to present-day reality.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
The second of the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy, this book thrusts the reader into a gripping world of power, magic and high stakes brinkmanship. An exciting and thought-provoking young adult fantasy novel.
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Africa resources for teachers
- The British Library runs a mini-site full of resources for teaching children about West Africa, including the history of words, symbols, language and song.
- The Smithsonian offers a range of downloadable resources, including a curriculum guide, to support the teaching of African art.
- The Geographical Association features a range of resources, some of which will be useful to UKS2, including a Google Earth module.
- Alastair Humphreys’ website contains a wealth of downloadable lesson plan ideas and resources to support the Boy Who Biked the World, including VIPERS discussion ideas.
- Take a virtual tour of the British Museum’s Africa gallery which contains over 2000 years’ worth of fascinating objects and art.
- BBC Bitesize has a video activity and short quiz about the continent of Africa, aimed at children in KS1. There’s also a ‘Go Jetters‘ geography guide.
- Oak National Academy’s free lesson plan unit explains to KS1 pupils what Africa is like through presentations and short activities.