Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kenya Picture Books

I was pleasantly surprised to find a good handful of books about Kenya to choose from this month. A couple come from our bookshelf and the rest are from the (amazingly well-stocked) Singapore library.

Here's our top five:

Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya
written by Mary and Rich Chamberlin, illustrated by Julia Cairns
A story about preparing a meal for friends in a Kenyan village. I like how it shows "typical" life and how friends and families spend time together. Plus it has a recipe in the back that we can use for our cooking project!

Kenya ABCs
written by Sarah Heiman, illustrated by Arturo Avillo
The Whirl Girl is really into thinking about letters right now, so this seemed perfect. I like that some of the words and images will be familiar to her and others will be new.

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
The biographical story of Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work on environmental issues in Kenya. I'm always trying to find ways to expose The Whirl Girl to social justice in a kid-friendly way and this seemed like a good entry. There were a number of children's books about Maathai (see below). I'll be reading her memoir as my grown-up book for the month. And we'll be making a donation to her organization in an effort to give back to the community.

The Lonely Lioness and the Ostrich Chicks: A Masai Tale
retold by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Yumi Heo
Animals are a great entry point for kids into Kenya, so I wanted at least one book about Kenyan animals. I like that this is a Masai folk tale and I thought the story was about at The Whirl Gir's speed. I'm hoping that it ties in nicely with Under the Baobab Tree, a play we're going to see.

Papa, Do You Love Me?

by Barbara M. Joosee, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
This is one from our own bookshelf and one The Whirl Girl already likes. It is a sweet tale that shows life among the Masai in the Serengeti, in a way that kids can really connect to.

And a bonus book:

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
I love the illustrations in this book, which come from African fabric. It's a nice compliment to our other Wangari Maathai book, showing how and why women planted all different kinds of indigenous trees. I'm curious to see which style The Whirl Girl relates to more - this one which explores a more micro level and our other macro-level book.

And others that you might add to your list:

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain
by Verna Aardema
Another option with animals, a rhyming poem about drought and rain and how it affects animals and people living in the Kenyan savannah.

Giraffes Can't Dance
by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Another one from our shelf that is a big hit with The Whirl Girl. Lots and lots of animals with vibrant illustrations and a nice story about dancing to your own tune.

Masai and I
by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
This story compares the lives of an African-American girl and a Masai girl. I thought the concept might be a little advanced for The Whirl Girl right now, but great in a year.

For You Are a Kenyan Child
by Kelly Cunnane, illustrated by Ana Juan
This was checked out from the library, otherwise it might be in our top five. A "day-in-the-life" story of a Kenyan kid.

More books about Wangari Maathai:
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
by Claire A. Nivola
This offers a good explanation of how and why Wangari did what she did, but seemed to be aimed at an older audience. There was also more background on the politics of her efforts.

Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World

by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
This has great illustrations and offers a biography of her whole life, but is better for older kids.


  1. I just love the idea of the blog..

  2. Amazing! I'm feeling inspired to do some of these activities. Thanks, Jenika!