May We Suggest? This post contains recommendations from a CPL librarian. To get your own customized recommendation, just fill out the May We Suggest form — you can expect results within 10 days. All suggestions can be found on the May We Suggest blog or by liking May We Suggest on facebook.

Thorndyke Thoughts: Armchair Travel to Africa

Winter Thorndyke Closeup


Hey Kids,

One of my favorite reasons to read is to discover places I've never been and learn about other people. Particularly in the wintertime I enjoy this kind of traveling, and I always like improving my understanding of the worlds and its people. Africa is a continent, made up of many different countries, that sometimes seems very far away. Try some of these books to bring it a little closer.

Bear Hugs,


Picture Books

The wooden camel by Wanuri Kahiu

Etabo wants nothing more than to race camels, but when times are tough and his chances disappear, he must be content with dreaming about racing them, until his sister makes a herd of wooden camels to help him imagine. (Kenya)

Chicken in the kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor

Awakened by strange sounds, Anyaugo discovers a giant chicken in her kitchen and has to muster the courage to remove it before the chicken destroys her family's preparations for the New Yam Festival. (Nigeria)

The butter man by Elizabeth Alalou

While Nora waits for the couscous her father is cooking to be finished, he tells her a story about his youth in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. (Morocco)

My rows and piles of coins by Tololwa M. Mollel

A Tanzanian boy saves his coins to buy a bicycle so that he can help his parents carry goods to market, but then he discovers that in spite of all he has saved, he still does not have enough money. (Tanzania)

Join Baby and his doting mama at a bustling southwest Nigerian marketplace for a bright, bouncy read-aloud offering a gentle introduction to numbers. (Nigeria)

Mama Panya has just enough money to buy ingredients for a few pancakes, so when her son Adika invites all their friends to join them, she is sure there will not be enough to go around. (Kenya)

Bikes for rent! by Isaac Olaleye

Lateef, a poor young boy living in a village in western Nigeria, works hard so he can rent a bicycle and ride with the other boys. (Nigeria)

Even though Wambui is very happy that her sister Wangari is getting married, she is also sad as she will miss the stories her sister tells. When Wangari gives Wambui a beautiful beaded necklace as a special gift, Wambui realizes that her sister will always love her, no matter where she is. (Kenya)

I lost my tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite

While visiting her father's family in Mali, a young girl loses a tooth, places it under a calabash, and receives a hen and a rooster from the African Tooth Fairy. (Mali)

Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams

Walking through his village, a young African boy finds the materials to make a special toy. (Malawi)

Mufaro's two beautiful daughters, one bad-tempered, one kind and sweet, go before the king, who is choosing a wife. (Zimbabwe)

The water princess by Susan Verde

The story of one young girl's quest to bring clean drinking water to her village. (Burkina Faso)

Readers meet the trickster Ananse. (Ghana)

Counting chickens by Polly Alakija

Toby and his friends in his village all have baby animals, as they count the number of eggs and young that they have and Toby ends up with fifty chickens.

Ife's first haircut by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Chinaza watches her little brother, Ife, get his first haircut, and helps her family prepare the celebration for this rite of passage. (Nigeria)

The everlasting embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel

A young child describes her experiences of life in Mali as she spends a day carried in a blanket on her mother's back. (Mali)

Chapter Books

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Anna Hibiscus loves her life in Africa where she lives in a wonderful house with her entire family, but longs to see snow.

Akimbo and the elephants by Alexander McCall Smith

On the African game preserve where his father works, Akimbo devises a dangerous plan to capture a ring of elephant poachers. (Zimbabwe)

Akata witch by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born albino child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she learns that she has latent magical powers which she and three similarly gifted friends use to catch a serial killer. (Nigeria)

When the Sudanese civil war reaches his village in 1985, eleven-year-old Salva becomes separated from his family and must walk with other Dinka tribe members through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of safe haven. Based on the life of Salva Dut. (Sudan)

Gorilla dawn by Gill Lewis

Imara and Bobo, two children being held by rebel soldiers, are determined to return a captive baby gorilla back to the forest before it is sold. (Democratic Republic of Congo)

The red pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder. (Sudan)


Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah's inspiring true story is nothing short of remarkable. Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people--but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. (Ghana)

Recounts the life and accomplishments of the environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. (Kenya)

Presents the life of the African activist who grew up in rural poverty, went on to receive an education in the United States, and returned to her country of Zimbabwe to rebuild her childhood school. (Zimbabwe)

Chronicles the life and activism of the Grammy-award winning South African singer, including her anti-apartheid work with Nelson Mandela. (South Africa)

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

It is the story of a young boy's determination to change South Africa, and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country. Mandela believed in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Find the English language version here. (South Africa)

The amazing travels of Ibn Battuta by Fāṭimah Sharaf al-Dīn

Details the travels of Ibn Battuta, a twenty-one year-old who penned a diary as he traveled the medieval Islamic world from Mecca to Quanzhou. (Tangier, Morocco)

Freddy Adu by Jeff Savage

Biography of Freddy Adu, an emigrant from Ghana, who, at fourteen, became the youngest player in Major League Soccer. (Ghana)

She was the Egyptian girl who became a master politician and a supreme stateswoman. Inheriting her father's throne along with her young stepson, Hatshepsut was soon crowned pharaoh in her own right. This is the startling tale of a woman's rise to power within a patriarchal society. (Egypt)

Looks at the West African Mali Empire ruler Mansa Musa's great pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, with background information about the man, his empire, and his times. (Mali)

Njinga : "the warrior queen" by Janie Havemeyer

Profiles West African "Warrior Queen" Njinga and the apparent contradictions that marked her life, exploring how she fought fiercely against slavery at the same time she engaged in slave trading, performed human sacrifices, and murdered her nephew. (Angola)

Unlike most girls of her time, Hypatia learned to read and write, and as she grew older was tutored in mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. In time, word spread of her brilliance and scholars from all over the world came to her seeking her advice and opinions in these subjects. (Egypt)

An authorized portrait of one of Silicon Valley's most dynamic entrepreneurs evaluates his role in the successes of such innovations as Tesla and Space X while evaluating America's technological competitiveness. (South Africa)

The memoir of Michaela DePrince, who lived the first few years of her live in war-torn Sierra Leone until being adopted by an American Family. Now seventeen, she is one of the premiere ballerinas in the United States. (Sierra Leone)

The boy who harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba

Presents a story of how an African teenager built a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his home and his village, improving life for himself and his neighbors. (Malawi)

Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his school-yard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. (Democratic Republic of Congo)