Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 15 Jan 2024

Amazing Africa

I recently did an enjoyable ‘Wild Things and Gold Rings’ event with Year Two classes at Moor Green Primary Academy in Birmingham. They were coming to the end of a topic that focussed on some aspects of Kenya and South Africa.  My aim was to share a range of beautiful books that were about these countries  plus just a few of the many other countries.

We started with ‘Africa‘ written by the well known Nigerian author and illustrated by Mouni Feddag. This very informative book reinforces the vastness of the subject and I emphasised how much I had learnt from reading it. I believe that it is important for children to realise that books can extend adult knowledge in a pleasurable way. I also wanted to use the colourful illustration of the continent to easily locate the countries I was hoping to include in the session. We also looked briefly at one of her chapter books ‘Too Small Tola Makes It Count’ that I have recently reviewed as I wanted to convey my own enthusiasm for the story.

‘Wangari’s Trees of Peace’ by Jeanette Winterson tells the true story of Wangari Maathai, a brave Kenyan woman who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her determined fight to save the trees in her small village community and the country in general. Against all the odds, she started the Green Belt Movement Kenya in 1977 on World Environment Day by planting nine seedlings in her backyard in response to the growing deforestation in her homeland. Apart from being an inspirational story about looking after the environment and challenging government, we lingered over many of the distinctive illustrations.

We then travelled to the vibrant Ugandan market featured in ‘Off to Market’ by Elizabeth Dale, illustrated by Erika Pal. From there we went west to the Central African Republic to find out about a traditional emblem of fertility in the strange story of ‘ The Magic Doll’ by Adrienne Yabouza with delicately coloured and detailed illustrations by Eloudi Nouhen, inspired by African art.

I wanted to conclude with some South African inspired stories and was pleased to learn that they were already familiar with ‘ Grandad Mandela’ by two of his grandchildren, Zazi Ziwelene and Zindzi Mandela which is illustrated by Sean Qualls. We then moved on to looking at some books written by Beverley Naidoo who is a long time friend of The Letterpress Project. I read the traditional Amharic story from Ethiopia, ‘Who is King’ illustrated by Piet Grobler, which tells the tale of how the Elephant became temporary King of the Jungle by tossing the Lion high in the sky!

The children then drew their own wonderful and very individual pictures in response to the story which you can see in the gallery below. All in all - a satisfying experience which I would like to do another time.


Karen Argent

January 2024