World Kid Lit: Nine African Children’s Books by Africans
This brief tour of African children’s literature is part of a month-long series on Bookwitty celebrating world literature for children as part of WorldKidLit Month, on twitter at #WorldKidLit.
African children’s literature—by African authors—is among the most underrepresented in UK and US bookshops. The excellent world-literature advocacy organization “Outside in World,” which offers information about a wealth of world children’s literature from six of the seven continents, has only five titles from all of Africa. Of these, four are from South Africa. One, a folktale called True Friends, is a Groundwood Books title from Tanzania.
Earlier this year, superstar Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie said we don’t have enough children’s literature that tells African stories. She said, in a video interview with The Atlantic, that, “The children’s books that I read, and I think this is true for many other young children in countries that were formerly colonized, didn’t reflect my reality.”
Translations of African literature are about as rare as dragon’s teeth, and can be just as hard to find. Classics like Syankombo, by Duly Mudenda and Kansi Nagunga, which was gathered from oral sources, transcribed, and translated from Tonga by Joseph Sibanda and Justin Knife, is nigh on impossible to find. Even Chinua Achebe’s The Flute, brought over from the Igbo language, is difficult to locate.
With an emphasis on linguistic and geographic diversity, here are nine books from across the continent that are available to enjoy now, beginning with Picture Books for young and emerging readers, books for tweens, and books for the teen years and beyond.