At nearly 10 inches by 12 inches, Africa, Amazing Africa Country by Country, written by Atinuke and beautifully illustrated by Mouni Feddag, is the perfect coffee table book. But this book is so much more than a visual treat: it’s a lyrical and engaging nonfiction homage to Africa’s diversity of people, traditions, animals, and landscapes that is sure to delight children and adults alike. With its brightly colored maps, wealth of fascinating information, and a helpful index, it’s “an essential addition to every young reader’s library and (an) absolutely triumph” (from the book jacket.
From the introduction alone, I learned that Africa is comprised of at least 55 countries – a number that’s impossible to pinpoint because of ongoing struggles for independence. I also learned that Africa is a mix of modern innovations and ancient traditions, of “mega-cities with skyscrapers and highways” (page 5) and “shantytowns made out of cardboard and corrugated iron” (page 6) . Africa is so vast and changeable, this book is a snapshot. And a glorious one it is!
In Angola’s capital city of Luanda, “skyscrapers overlook palm trees and big white yachts in the bay.” But “outside the city is the rain forest: a place where the forest people tread silently with their spears and arrows…thick with trees that help our planet to breathe” (page 10). The page on Botswana showcases the wildly disparate goals and lifestyles of the diverse inhabitants, from millionaires who prize diamonds to nomadic San people who prize freedom above all else. One village holds a white rhino sanctuary, and black rhinos were extinct until one wandered in from nearby Zimbabwe.
In Zambia, people are talented at carrying all manner of heavy things on their heads, while in Burundi, boys learn how to play the giant drums they balance on THEIR heads, all while dancing and doing acrobatic moves. Eritrea contains many rain and grass-chasing nomads – some of whom now rely on GPS and cell phone apps to find the best locations. Kenya is a popular safari spot for many, but did you know it’s also a melting pot of people from all around the world? Tanzania is known for spices and safari animals, plus a fair number of hungry crocodiles: my son signed up to participate in a service trip there in his junior year of high school, helping out a Masai village. Alas, the trip was canceled due to COVID, but I know he very much still wants to go.
Each country is amazingly unique, and I love how Atinuke highlights the diversity often found within a single country. Religions, hairstyles, languages, clothing, and markets are also covered in this wondrous book. I can’t imagine any child (or adult) who wouldn’t enjoy discovering all these interesting facts. No doubt after reading this, many families will start planning African vacations. Trust me, I’ll be hitching along.
Atinuke, who was born in Nigeria and now lives in Wales, began her career as an oral storyteller and has written many delightful books for children. Check out her fascinating interview on the Walker Books website by clicking here. I previously reviewed Atinuke’s charming B is for Baby, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank on April 26, 2019. Click here to access that post.