One of the things we love about reading with kids is the wider world it opens up for them. For most of our children, the world is still a very small place. The places, people and cultures they are familiar with are relatively few. Fiction is an enormously powerful tool that can help gently to introduce them to the wider world, allowing them to witness and experience what it is like to live in a different country or culture. The best fiction does this in a way that doesn’t over emphasise the differences or alienate them from the world they are reading about, but instead focuses on telling a good story that the reader is absorbed by and feels connected to, regardless of whether it is set in an Amazonian jungle or their own home town.
We love books that take us around the world and the book we sent our Parakeet subscribers last month is the perfect example. Too Small Tola is set in bustling Lagos, Nigeria, and stars Tola, a young girl who lives with her brother, sister and grandmother. Tola may be small, but she is determined, not to mention extremely likable. The book itself is made up of three short stories, all connected but each exploring a different aspect of Tola’s everyday life in Lagos.
Too Small Tola is authored by Atinuke, a UK-based Nigerian-born storyteller, who we’ve been big fans of for many years. Her children’s books bring Nigeria alive and her characters are always wonderfully relatable. Here are three more brilliant Atinuke books to look out for:
Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother, her father, her baby twin brothers, and lots and lots of her family. Join her as she splashes in the sea, prepares for a party, sells oranges, and hopes to see sweet, sweet snow!
Africa, Amazing Africa
Beautifully illustrated by Mouni Feddag, this is Atinuke's first non-fiction: a celebration of all 55 countries on the African continent, capturing Africa's unique mix of the modern and the traditional explored through its geography, peoples, animals, history, resources and cultural diversity.
No. 1 Car Spotter
No. 1 is bright, plucky and resourceful. His hobby is car spotting, but he’s good at solving all sorts of problems for his village. When the family's cart breaks down and there's no way of bringing goods to market, it's No. 1 who devises the Toyota Cow-rolla and saves the day.
And while we’re on the subject, here are three more books for younger readers all set in amazing Africa:
Picture book: Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett
Sunny the meerkat lives with his enormous family in the Kalahari desert. They are all very close . . . so close, in fact, that one day Sunny decides it's just too crowded and packs his bags. He's off to visit his mongoose cousins, but quickly discovers there’s nowhere quite like home.
Young fiction: The Akimbo Adventures by Alexander McCall Smith
Akimbo and his parents live on the edge of an African game reserve. It's his father's task to protect the thousands of amazing animals who make it their home, and wildlife-loving Akimbo dreams of helping him.
Poetry: Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson
This lovely collection of poetry for children includes poems that will lead you on a magical journey across the savannah, introducing a whole host of animals along the way.
For more middle grade book recommendations check out our earlier edit of kids’ fiction books set in Africa.
Are you keen to supercharge your child’s love of reading but feel like you could be doing more to support them? We know that discovering, purchasing and recommending books that maintain your child’s enthusiasm for reading, helping them to reach their full potential, is hard. Why not let us take that off your to-do list? With a Parrot Street Book Club subscription your child receives a carefully chosen new children’s book and accompanying activity pack through the post each month. They receive a stream of varied and exciting books, whilst the book club-style questions and activities are perfect for sharing. Find out more here.