Planet Picture Book


Flamingos at Lake Natron, Tanzania by Christoph Strässler

There do not appear to be many contemporary picture books coming out of Tanzania. Unless I have been looking in the wrong places . . .

I tried a variety of channels in my search, including Africa Access which is a great source of information on children’s/YA books with a specific focus on Africa. I also checked out the White Ravens listings. And I found a list of African children’s publishers on IBBY, which I shall no doubt return to on future occasions. I am not sure how up-to-date the IBBY list is, however. When I started looking in more detail, only one featured publisher for Tanzania had an Internet presence and specific focus on children’s literature: Mkuki na Nyota Founded in 1991 by Walter Bgoya, this publishing house produces a range of books in Tanzania and Eastern Africa for worldwide distribution.

Walter Bgoya is also one of the founding members of African Books Collective, an African-owned marketing and distribution collective for books from Africa. Do check out their site to browse – and purchase! – children’s titles from African countries; it also has an extensive list of African publishers by country (scroll down to ABC Participating Publishers). I ordered all three featured titles for this leg of my picture book journey from this brilliant UK-based site.

Two of the three books I selected were published by Mkuki na Nyota, and one, The Story of the Crow and the Frog, was penned by Walter Bgoya. Yes, he is an author as well! The book’s illustrator is Christine Steinberg-Mund. This book was a White Ravens selection in 2004. The second is a bilingual English/Swahili counting book, Let’s Play, Tucheze Numbody and it comes with a CD! This title was written & illustrated by Masayo, who was born in Japan but now lives in Tanzania. It was chosen as a notable book in the Children’s Africana Book Awards 2012.

The third book in my selection, Lupompo and the Baby Monkey is actually more of an illustrated early chapter book than a picture book. It was published by E&D Limited, whose founder is Demere Kitunga, a feminist activist, publisher and writer. Her passion is ‘to promote readership as a way of empowering women, men, girls and boys to interrogate conventional knowledge, seek their own version of the truth and enjoy the world of letters as leisure, culture and a mode of learning.’

Here’s the selection for Tanzania – I hope you enjoy them!

The Story of the Crow and the Frog by Walter Bgoya, illustrated by Christine Steinberg-Mund (Mkuki na Nyota, 2003)

Let’s Play, Tucheze Numbody by Masayo (Mkuki na Nyota, 2011)

Lupompo and the Baby Monkey by Demere Kitunga, illustrated by Paul Ndunguru (E&D Limited, 2004)

[Image: Flamingos at Lake Natron, Tanzania by Christoph Strässler made available under a creative commons licence. Source:]

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