Five fantastic books set in Africa

Published on: 25 July 2022

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu is set in a futuristic Nigeria - a country rarely explored in modern children’s literature. Here, Tolá shares five of her favourite children’s books set in Africa; both real and fantastical.

Tolá Okogwu and the cover of Onyeka and the Academy of the SunTolá Okogwu and the cover of Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun 

Too Small Tola by Atinuke and illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

A fantastic collection of three short stories featuring the irrepressible and pint-sized Tola, set in Lagos, Nigeria. I can almost smell the spicy air and feel the damp heat as Atinuke introduces us to her determined heroine who lives with her clever sister, cheeky brother and formidable Grandmummy. Their escapades are brilliantly brought to life by Onyinye Iwu’s joyful illustrations.

Femi the Fox: A Pot of Jollof by Jeanette Kwakye and illustrated by Katlego Kgabale

Written in the style of an African proverb, this tale follows troublesome Femi the Fox on his quest to find food. I love the way Nigerian culture and food is celebrated in this book and the illustrations by Kgabale are a delight. Will Femi learnt to be patient? You’ll have to read the book and find out.

Illustration: Onyinye IwuIllustration: Onyinye Iwu

Jummy at the River School by Sabine Adeyinka

Set in a boarding school in Nigeria, this book evokes memories of Mallory Towers, but with a flavour all its own. I’ve heard all about Nigerian boarding schools from my parents and the stories aren’t always nice. Adeyinka however, creates a magical and joyful setting at the River School, where Jummy must grapple with social injustice when an old and unexpected friend arrives.

Sing to the Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and illustrated by Sandra Van Doorn

Told in beautiful rhyming verse, Sing to the Moon follows a young Ugandan boy with a vivid imagination facing a bleak and rainy day. Until his beloved Jjajja helps him find new adventures closer to home. It is a beautiful exploration of everyday life in Uganda as well as the power of the imagination.

Illustration: Vashti HarrisonIllustration: Vashti Harrison

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

A firm favourite in my house, Nyong'o’s debut book tells the story of a young girl who just wants to fit in. Sulwe’s skin is darker than everyone else in her family and all she wants is to be beautiful like her sister. Nothing her mother says can make her see that she already is. Until one magical night and a fantastical journey across the sky changes everything. Vashti Harrison’s illustrations are a stunning addition, and this is book you’ll treasure.

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Watch: How Tolá Okogwu went from self-published to published

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