Books by Theme

Tales from South Africa

All eyes looked to South Africa for the World Cup in 2010. From folktales to soccer stories to Nelson Mandela's childhood, these books offer a wonderful introduction to South Africa's people and natural environment. Many of the books also address the long struggle to overcome apartheid, gently opening the discussion for young readers with stories that are both realistic and hopeful.

A South African Night

By: Rachel Isadora
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

When the people of Johannesburg go to bed, the animals of Kruger National Park begin to stir. Simple text and evocative watercolors bring the city and the national reserve to life and will inspire young children to think about what is happening in the natural world while they are sleeping.


By: Mina Javaherbin
Illustrated by: A.G. Ford
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This heart-tugging picture book from a debut author tells a lyrical soccer story in the voice of a young boy in a South African shantytown. In full-page oil paintings, unusual angles intensify the sense of the scuffling, exciting action, the tense confrontation, and the reality of shantytown life.

Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story

By: Beverley Naidoo
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A sister and brother travel to Johannesburg in search of their mother as their baby sister becomes ill. On the way, they become aware of what apartheid means for the people in their country.


By: Floyd Cooper
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Meet young Rolihlahla, the boy who will grow up to become Nelson Mandela. From his childhood in the South African countryside, to his election as the first black president in South Africa's history, Mandela's extra-ordinary life is a story of courage, persistence, hope, and belief.

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales

By: Nelson Mandela
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales, Myths and Legends
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In his foreword to this rich compilation, Nelson Mandela writes, "This collection offers a handful of beloved stories, morsels rich with the gritty essence of Africa, but in many instances universal in their portrayal of humanity, beasts, and the mystical." Colorful vignettes add an extra dimension to the creation myths, trickster tales, and magical stories that Mandela has chosen.

South Africa: Explore the World Through Soccer

By: Ethan Zohn, David Rosenberg
Illustrated by: Shawn Braley
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ethan Zohn is a professional soccer player, philanthropist, and lecturer. Through his series of international Soccer World books, Zohn shares ways that soccer can be used as a "common language" across cultures. In this edition, Zohn makes his way through South Africa, and takes readers from wildlife preserves to giant soccer stadiums.

The Day Gogo Went to Vote

By: Elinor Batezat Sisulu
Illustrated by: Sharon Wilson
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Thembi's family learns that South Africa will hold elections, her 100-year-old grandmother announces that she too will vote now that she has the opportunity. This story of quiet determination pays tribute to the people of South Africa and the privilege of casting a ballot. Pastel sketches convey the joy and warmth of the bond between Thembi and Gogo.

The Gift of the Sun: A Tale from South Africa

By: Dianne Stewart
Illustrated by: Jude Daly
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Thulani enjoys sitting in the sun, and he is tired of milking his cow. When he sells his cow to buy a goat, however, his problems are just beginning. What will it take for his luck change? Illustrations are done in a folkart style and filled with little details of South African rural life.

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