If you know a middle grade or early high school student who loves history, then I implore you to turn them on to African Icons by Tracey Baptiste. This book covers “Ten People who Built a Continent” – some I was familiar with, and others I had never heard of before or whose origin I knew nothing about. I really enjoyed this nonfiction book and know a lot of kids and fellow history nerds will too.

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The summary, from Amazon:

Meet the ten remarkable kings, queens, inventors, scholars, and visionaries who changed the world. 

Black history begins thousands of years ago with the many cultures and people of the African continent.

Through portraits of ten heroic figures, author Tracey Baptiste takes readers on a journey across Africa to meet some of the great leaders and thinkers whose vision built a continent and shaped the world.

Illustrator Hillary D. Wilson’s brilliant portraits accompany each profile, along with vivid, information-filled landscapes, maps, and graphics for readers to pore over and return to again and again.

Buy African Icons here.

The ten people featured in this book certainly shaped history, and Baptiste provides not just info on these individuals but background information on what was going on on Africa at the time and discoveries being made. The art is really gorgeous, from landscapes to stunning portrait art of these icons. Images of artifacts are also included. While the text is a little dry at times, the information provided is important and engaging. I loved that people I was familiar with and unfamiliar with were included, as well as historical figures whose origins I knew nothing about, like Aesop.

A lot of historical information on Africa has been lost or ignored, which Baptiste mentions. One piece of history that broke my heart was the destruction of the public libraries in Timbuktu. I had no idea these institutions existed or about the rich culture or this land. I’m so lucky that I got to read this 5 star book to educate myself more on African history. African Icons touches mostly on northern Africa, and I’m curious to learn more of the history of other parts of the world that often aren’t featured through the white western lens that often controls the public’s understanding of history.

African Icons: Ten People Who Built a ContinentAfrican Icons: Ten People Who Built a Continent by Tracey Baptiste
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellently researched and gorgeous illustrations.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Which of these icons were you familiar with and which were new to you? Were there any you recognized but never knew their origins?
  2. Which of these icons was your favorite?
  3. What historical facts did you learn? What surprised you?
  4. What might you want to research further after reading this book?

Interested? Buy African Icons.
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