My kids studied Ghana in second grade and their teachers all wanted to find books that portrayed Ghana as a city because the kids all thought the Ghanaians lived in rural villages. This was more than 15 years ago, and I’m happy to see that there are few books depicting Accra, Ghana’s capital city.
I’m trying to learn more about Africa. What are your favorite books depicting Ghana or other African countries? Thanks for sharing!
p.s. Here are more suggestions from my Twitter friend:
Ekuwah Mends Moses 🇬🇭🇺🇸 @ekuwah
I love your list! ❤️🇬🇭 Thank you for amplifying Ghana! Here are a few more of my favorite books by Ghanaian authors or feature the country of Ghana.
Children’s Books About Ghana
Nii Kwei’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a Ghanaian City by Francis Provencal and Catherine McNamara
I love this documentary-style picture book showing a young boy’s entire day in Accra, starting early in the morning until bedtime. He has a full day getting ready for school, going to school, going to the market with his family, playing at home, eating dinner, and then his nighttime ritual. Readers will learn that his day is not so different from theirs. Nii Kwei’s school does not have computers in the book, but hopefully, this has changed since this book is more than twenty years old. I would love to see an updated version! [nonfiction picture book, ages 5 and up]
Deron Goes to Nursery School by Ifeoma Onyefulu
It’s a busy day for four-year-old Deron. He’s starting nursery school in Ghana! But first, he and his mom need to get ready. They go to the market to buy a school backpack, a pair of shoes, and fabric for clothes. She sews him a new blue shirt and brown shorts. He looks so grown up in his new school outfit! They walk to nursery school and meet one of his teachers, Shielabet Dadaola. It’s a busy day. Deron meets the other children, plays outside, and learns to write his letters. He plays games and eats lunch at school. There is also naptime and story time before it’s time to go home. This informational picture book shows a day in the life of preschool that kids can relate to. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]
Grandma Comes to Stay by Ifeoma Onyefulu
Grandma comes to visit her granddaughter in a city such as Accra, Ghana, and the reader gets a glimpse into a middle-class family’s daily routine. The photos depict a family that will resemble a life that most readers can relate to. Except for the Osu Homowo festival, this family could almost live anywhere in the world. Pair it with Deron Goes to Nursery School and Nii Kwei’s Day for a deeper dive into ordinary city life in Ghana. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]
Kofi and His Magic by Maya Angelou, photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke
Kofi is a seven-year-old boy living in Ghana and he claims to be a magician. He’s also a weaver of beautiful Kente cloth. Is it magic when Kofi visits towns in the North of Ghana where they wear hats made with horns and cowrie shells, and the homes are painted with beautiful designs? When Kofi returns home to Bonwire, he shows the reader his school which is mostly held outside. There is also Durbar, a festival to celebrate the harvest. Kofi shares his magic with his friend Kojo and they visit the western part of Ghana along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. And then it’s time to go home, but readers can always find their friend, Kofi, and his magic here in this book. [nonfiction picture book, ages 7 and up]
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Young Kojo had to quit school to help his mother collect wood to sell ever since his father died. His mother is able to get a small loan that will allow her to buy a cart so she can carry more firewood to sell at the market. With the small amount of money left over, Kojo decides to purchase a hen. It takes him two hours to walk to the chicken farm, and he carefully chooses his hen. His hen is a good layer, and soon there are eggs for Kojo and his mother to sell. Soon, Kojo saved enough money to purchase a second hen. One year later, Kojo has 25 hens! With this money, Kojo is able to return to school where he learns about science and math including how to better care for his chickens and stay healthy. When Kojo is older, he is able to loan out money to help his neighbors. And just like that, one small loan for one hen has a ripple effect. This is the true story of Kwabena Darko, from the Ashanti region of Ghana. [picture book biography, ages 3 and up]
In the Small, Small Night by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Abena and her younger brother Kofi wake up in the middle of the night. It’s their first night in America, and they think about their home in Ghana. Abena tells Kofi stories from their homeland. The first one is about Anansi and his pot of wisdom. Next, she tells him about the Eagle, the Turtle, and the mean Vulture. These stories comfort them for what awaits them when they wake up and start a new school in a new country. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Leopard’s Drum: An Asante Tale from West Africa by Jessica Souhami
This folk tale explains why tortoises have hard shells. In this story, Osebo, the leopard, is boastful. He makes a big drum that all the animals admire. When the Nyame, the Sky-God, wants to try it. Osebo says no. Nyame tells the forest animals that whoever can bring the drum to him will get a big reward. Onini the Python, Esono the Elephant, and Asroboa the Monkey all unsuccessfully attempt to get the drum. Achi-cheri, the tortoise, decides to try but the other animals scoff at her. She uses her wits to trick Osebo and is rewarded by Nyame with a hard shell. And that is why tortoises today have hard shells! [folk tale picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Ghanaian Goldilocks by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
This is a playful story that riffs off the Goldilocks story but is set in Ghana. Goldilocks, in this story, is a young boy who doesn’t always follow the polite rules of Ghanaian culture. Because his hair is bleached blonde by the sun, he stands out and is easily identified when he does something naughty. Goldilocks trespasses into his neighbor’s house and eats their homemade fufu and palm nut stew, breaks a carved stool, and touches the beautiful Kente cloth in the wardrobes, before getting caught. Goldilocks apologizes and all is forgiven. Ghanaian hospitality is legendary! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Ana & Andrew: Going to Ghana by Christine Platt, illustrated by Junissa Bianda
Ana & Andrew are going with their father to his conference in Accra, the capital of Ghana! When they arrive, Ana and Andrew are surprised to see that Accra is a city, not the rural village that they are used to seeing in picture books. They try jollof rice, fufu, and other Ghanaian dishes. Cape Coast, a nearby city, is their next stop. Here, they learn that it was used for slave trading. They pass through “The Door of No Return” where enslaved Africans once passed, never to return home again. Ana & Andrew, as descendants of enslaved Africans, are able to honor their ancestors by passing through the door. This is an excellent early chapter book to learn about Ghana. [early reader, ages 5 and up]
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
In West Ghana, children with physical disabilities couldn’t go to school, but Emmanuel’s mother made sure that he went to school. First, she carried him. When he was too heavy to carry, he hopped on one leg, two miles each way. He played soccer using crutches and rode a bike with just one leg. When his mother got very sick, he went to the city of Accra to find work. He worked at many jobs to earn money to send home. To raise awareness that disabled does not mean unable, Emmanuel decided to bicycle around Ghana. The Challenged Athletes Foundation in San Diego sent him a bike and equipment. The further he rode, the more attention Emmanuel received, and he used the opportunity to talk about how a physical disability is not a limitation. He rode nearly four hundred miles in just ten days and showed that one person can change the world. [picture book biography, ages 5 and up]
The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories by Adwoa Badoe, illustrated by Baba Wagué Diakité
Stores of African origin such as the Uncle Remus stories can be traced back to the African Ananse story tradition about a trickster spider. They are told in an oral tradition which means they can change over time. Adwoa Badoe has written down the stories from her childhood, and in the oral tradition, has added her own spin to the tales. Many of these stories explain why spiders hide in the corner of a house but they also speak to the vices of man — greed, envy, and vanity — but also the good, such as bravery and wisdom.[folktales chapter book, ages 6 and up]
The Kaya Girl by Mamle Wolo
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“This book was originally published in Ghana in 2012 and is a fascinating look at several different facets of Ghanaian. Abena is from the wealthy upper class, her aunt is from a hardworking, middle class background, and Fazia represents the impoverished lower class that struggles just to hold on. Her aunt is a bit leery of Faiza, but Abena’s father is glad that the two have become friends and can learn from each other. It was absolutely fascinating to read about the practice of giving children to other relatives to raise lest they become too soft! Since this book is now ten years old, I wonder if this has changed at all.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
Review from Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Powerful historical novel in verse, set in Ghana in the 19th century. Young Kofi goes to a school where the teacher is cruelly insistent they use “the Queen’s English” instead of Twi. He has an interest in Ama, a girl he knows who is forced to work at her uncle’s house because of her family’s poverty, and has big dreams for his future. These are shattered when his older brother accidentally kills another boy in a wrestling match during a festival, and when slave traders invade and capture and torture many in the community. An important and long overdue look at problematic history.” [novel in verse, ages 10 and up]
Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees: Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes from West Africa and the Caribbean, songs collected by Nathalie Soussana, musical arrangements by Jean-Christophe Hoarau, illustrated by Judith Gueyfier
Song 17, Doodonin Konoma is a carnival song about the pufferfish from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Ghinea. It’s a metaphor for pregnant women who should receive more than their portion of food including smoked fish soup and rice because of their condition. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen: An Introduction to New African Cuisine — from Ghana with Love by Zoe Adjonyoh
Writer, chef, and founder of online spice shop Zoe Adjonyoh is a chef, cookbook author, and founder of the online spice shop, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Her recipes are an easy and fun way to learn more about Ghana … through food! For kid-friendly snacks, try the Tatale, plantain pancakes, or the Chunky Yam Fries. More adventurous eaters might like Red Red Stew with Coconut Rice. Zoe is a warm and welcoming host to those who want to try cooking the foods of Ghana! [cookbook, for all ages that like to cook or read cookbooks]
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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.