This week, we are exploring Africa. Why? A million years ago b.c. (before children), I designed and manufactured women’s golf apparel using natural fibers and geared to fashion-forward twenty-, thirty- and forty-somethings. The first collection used gorgeous fabrics from West Africa. I jogged this memory last week while reading picture books at my elementary school’s library to kill twenty minutes waiting for my parent/teacher conference. I found two great picture books below but wanted a chapter book to figure out my post. So the deal was sealed last night while editing my old posts. I came across the Africana Awards and it had the chapter book I needed to round out my book list. So, Africa, it is! Onward!
Africa: Books for Kids, Culture, Interior Design, and More
First I wanted to introduce a blog on my blogroll, Africa Access Review. Their primary goal is to improve the selection and use of accurate, balanced materials on Africa in schools, public libraries, and other institutions that serve children. They also award the Africana Awards for best children’s books covering Africa. This might come in handy someday if your child is doing a school project on Africa.
Second, are some picture and chapter books I selected on Africa. The first is a very sweet picture book for young children, ages 4 to 8, called Running the Road to ABC, set in the Congo by Denize Lauture.
The second picture book is Goal! by Mina Javaherbin and is set in South Africa. As fall soccer season winds down, I found this book especially poignant. My kids only have to complain that their soccer ball was left on the practice field or the wrong size to get a new one. In this book, a soccer ball is a rare and precious thing.
Even playing soccer in the street is a dangerous proposition due to roving gangs of bullies who blatantly steal any ball. And yet, the joy of soccer prevails! Kudos to soccer stars that hail from Africa including Samuel Eto’o from Cameroon, who played until this past summer for my family’s favorite team, Barcelona.
Here’s a link to the Top 10 African Soccer Players in Europe. I truly had no idea what obstacles they had to overcome to play soccer as children. Read this book to your children and compare what life is like in South Africa compared to here. This is a great way to nurture gratitude!
The third book is a middle grade book and the 2010 Africana Honor Winner:
Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo
“This novel by celebrated author Beverley Naidoo tells a serious story of colonialism in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion through the eyes of two boys, Mathew and Mugo; the embodiment of oppressor and oppressed respectively. Mathew is the grandson of British colonialists while Mugo is the grandson of Kikuyu farmers whose land was taken by the British government and sold to Mathew’s grandfather at a giveaway price. The book provides important moral lessons that can be applied in situations where stereotypes, injustices and other discriminatory practices thrive.”
Beverley Naidoo grew up in South Africa under apartheid. She was detained without trial when she was twenty-one and later went into exile in Britain, where she has since lived. She has two former CABA winners, Out of Bounds (2004 ) and No Turning Back (1998).” I have not read this book yet but it’s on my list of books to get and read. [middle grade, ages 9 and jup]
I found the fourth book on Ms. Yingling Reads blog:
Playing a Dangerous Game by Patrick Ochieng
“Lumush (which is short for Lumumba) lives in Nairobi, Kenya in about 1975 with his sister Awino, brother Deno, mother, and father. His father has recently been promoted to manager, so while the family continues to rent a house in the Railway Estates, there is now enough money for him to go from St. Joseph’s Primary and attend the much nicer Hill School. His mother gets him his uniform and supplies, and soon he is enjoying the nicer facilities but having to put up with the teachers and students who look down on him. He still hangs out with his neighborhood friends, Odush, Dado, and Mose. They frequently hang out in an old, abandoned car, and are enthralled by a local “ghost house” where a woman and her daughter were said to have died, and where the father is said to have killed himself. During one of their sorties into the house, Lumush breaks his arm and has to have it in a plaster cast, which does not make his mother happy! There are lots of interesting details about Lumush’s life, like the appearance of a film corporation truck that shows outdoor movies in the housing estate, the monthly spraying of toxic chemicals to control mosquitoes, the fact that Idi Amin was removing the Indian immigrant population from nearby Uganda, and the circumcision of one of the friends. Also mentioned is the spike in coffee prices due to weather damaging much of the Brazilian crop. This becomes entwined with the boys’ investigation of the ghost house, as they uncover a devious plot to smuggle coffee and have to deal with Tumbo, a local police chief. When a local boy is killed in an odd traffic accident, are Lumush and his friends in a dangerous situation?” [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Third, DesignTrackMind helped me to bring Africa into your home, should you desire. (Incidentally, she’s featured this week on This Old House‘s new Auburndale project; she’s the Interior Designer.) She turned me on to these carved stools for kings from Cameroon called Bamileke that make fabulous coffee or end tables, as well as … a seat fit for a king! The first one is featured in one of her favorite design blogs, CocoCozy and is on special at Pottery Barn for $349. The second one is from CopyCatChic and is a Jayson Home’s Bamileke Table for $695. She tells me that Bamileke is a really hot trend in interior design right now! I can see why; they are gorgeous and functional!
Another way to go, she also suggests is an African Drum Table.
I also found a book on Interior Design: Stylish Living in South Africa. Now, contrast this book to the first picture book, Goal!, and you understand Apartheid. Oops, this was supposed to be the fun portion of Teach Me Tuesday! My bad!
Fourth, I found this gorgeous new women’s apparel company, Suno, in Harper’s Bazaar and their prints remind me of the gorgeous West African fabrics I used so long ago but their prints are an updated, contemporary version. I love the vibrant colors and patterns!
Finally, I found an artisan chocolatier, Compartes, who is donating proceeds from an African-themed truffles collection (think caramelized plantains and cardamon!) to help victims in Darfur. The chocolates come with a Beads of Africa bracelet, each handmade from sand in Africa. The bracelets can also be purchased individually for $8 from Relief Beads. Proceeds from both sales go to Relief International, a non-profit organization running the second-largest refugee camp in Sudan, administering medical care at a clinic, providing life-saving medical care to malnourished children, as well as funding education for thousands of students in Sudan. These make a great present; it’s a holiday gift that keeps giving!
I hope you enjoyed our little trip to Africa. Which feature did you like the best?
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.