Ashanti to Zulu

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions

by Margaret Musgrove

This is a beautifully illustrated alphabet book in which each letter leads to a 1-2 paragraph description of a legend, or belief, or cultural tradition of a different African people. Rich illustrations on every page. A Caldecott Medal winner.

Parents Beware: One myth tells of a queen sacrificing her only son to the crocodiles, to ensure the safety of her people. Another entry speaks of a warrior game in which the winner gets to eat the heart or liver of a “freshly killed animal.”


Tsion’s Life

by Stacy Bellward.

A beautifully illustrated biography, describing the everyday life of an eleven-year-old girl in Ethiopia, as well as that of her mom and dad, and five-year-old brother. The book includes an Ethiopian vocabulary word (written in Amharic script) on every page. It is also heavily illustrated with photographs of Tsion’s family, home, town, school, church, friends, and meals.

Nothing in this book would be at all concerning to share with even the very youngest, or most sensitive child. It is a beautiful, gentle book that demonstrates fine family values.


Children Just Like Me

by Anabel & Barnabas Kindersley  

This is a book of mini-biographies of children and families from around the world, with one biography per 2-page spread, and a delightful array of photographs and blurbs which tell the reader all about each child and his/her family, including: what the parents do for a living; what their home, school, and place of worship (if any) are like; what kinds of extracurricular activities they like to do; their hopes, fears, and dreams for the world; and of course, their favorite foods.

Parents Beware: One of the entries talks about a pair of orphans in Ethiopia, and the famine that caused their parents to die.

World Alphabets Books

The books in this series, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books,  present beautifully photographed overviews of the cultural realities of modern day life in the country named in each title. Each volume contains an “author’s note” giving an introduction to the country in question, then for each letter, A-Z, there is a brief paragraph describing some aspect of the culture. Fascinating content, for example, in “M is for Mexico”: A for Alegria (a popular sweet treat made of seeds and honey), Q for Quinceanera, etc. Great jumping-off points for further reading and research on the country. Great for seeding the imagination with concrete images of real people, to help make map-studies come alive, and to help inspire travel planning.

Nothing at all even remotely violent or dramatic, either emotionally, socially, or physically, so a very safe choice for highly sensitive young readers. Highly recommended. I only wish they had more countries in the series.  The ones we have include:

  • B is for Brazil by Maria de Fatima Campos
  • C is for China by Sungwan So
  • E is for Ethiopia by Ashenafi Gudeta, Betelhem Abate, Ataklti Mulu, Dama Boru
  • I is for India by Prodeepta Das
  • I is for Iran by Shirin & Kamyar Adl
  • M is for Mexico by Flor de Maria Cordero
  • R is for Russia by Vladimir Kabakov & Prodeepta Das
  • T is for Turkey by Nilufer Topaloglu Pyper & Prodeepta Das