KENYA: Our Favorite Kenyan Children’s Books

KENYA: Our Favorite Kenyan Children’s Books

The Lion and the Mouse 600

We are big readers in our house, and we have proudly curated a wonderful collection of books for our girls. Both my husband and I want to be sure that our children are strongly exposed to both Kenyan and American culture, so we have made sure we have plenty of books in our collection about life in Kenya and Africa at large. Here are a few of our favorites!

For You are a Kenyan Child, by Kelly Cunnane and Ana Juan
For You are a Kenyan Child is a lovely story about a Kalenjin boy who lives in a rural Kenyan village. He has been given the job of minding his grandfather’s cattle for the day, but he becomes so distracted by all the goings-on in the village that he loses track of the herd. My eldest daughter loves the part when the boy realizes he’s lost track of his grandfather’s cows, and he imagines all the trouble they may have gotten into.  I love when he almost knocks down a beautiful Pokot girl and a plump mama carrying mangoes while trying to get back to the grazing cows. Luckily, his wise grandfather knows just where to find them! The illustrations in this book are truly beautiful, and we just love the story.

For You are a Kenyan Child

Chirchir is Singing, by Kelly Cunnane and Jude Daly
Chirchir is Singing is the story of Chirchir, a young Kalenjin girl who loves to sing, and wants to help her family with all their work. She tries to help her mother bring water from the well, but drops the bucket. She tries to help her grandmother make the tea, but accidentally puts out the fire. She tries to help her sister mud the floor, but sneezes and makes a mess. Slowly, Chirchir stops singing, and her smile turns to a frown. But soon she finds exactly how she can help, and her family realizes just how wonderful her singing is.

Chirchir is Singing 600

Moja Means One, by Muriel Feelings and Tom Feelings
Moja Means One is a simple Kiswahili counting book, and it’s great for even very young children. It not only teaches children how to count to ten in Kiswahili, but it also describes important African cultural practices, like the way mothers carry their babies on their backs in a simple cloth, the oral tradition of storytelling in the rural villages, and different kinds of traditional African clothing. Both of my children are learning Kiswahili from their father, but it’s so nice to have a book that emphasizes their African heritage!

Moja Means One 600

Lila and the Secret of Rain, by David Conway and Jude Daly
This is the story of a young girl in a rural Kenyan village afflicted by drought. The sun beats down on the village, and it is too hot to gather firewood, too hot to weed the garden, and too hot to milk the cow. Young Lila learns from her grandfather the secret of the rain, and she sets out to save her village and bring the rains. She climbs the highest mountain she can find, and begins to tell the sky the saddest things she knew. At last, she laments that without water, there can be no life, and her village is at risk. The sky grows darker, full of Lila’s sadness, and the rain begins to fall. Only Lila and her grandfather know the secret of what brought the rains.

Lila and the Secret of the Rain

Into the Bush, by Sandra Arensen
Into the Bush is a story is about a young girl named Lilee and her adventures on safari with her family. The tale is vividly told – you can almost hear the sound of the hyenas crunching on bones, or the snap of the crocodile’s jaws in the river below. What I love most about this book are the amazing illustrations. Sandra Arensen does her own artwork using watercolors, and her use of striking lines and vibrant color reminds me of spectacular stained glass windows.  My children love the story and the illustrations, and my eldest always talks about her own safari experiences when we read it!

Into the Bush

“Into the Bush” isn’t available online, but you can send an email to the publisher at, if you are interested in purchasing it. The cost of $10 USD covers the book and shipment in the USA. Please let them know what country you are in, so they can give you the proper pricing!

The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney illustrated his beautiful adaptation of Aesop’s famous fable about acts of kindness. There are no words in this book – it is up to parents to narrate the story based on the powerful illustrations. We all know the tale: a fierce lion decides to spare the life of a timid field mouse who wakes him from his sleep. Later, the tiny mouse comes to the lion’s rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s net. The moral of the story, of course, is that no good deed goes unrewarded, and that all creatures – great and small – can help one another.

The Lion and the Mouse

Safari ya Angani, by Francis Atulo 
This is a story of the once-beautiful tortoise who wished to fly with the crows into the sky to eat the clouds. One day, the crows carry him up into the sky, as the tortoise sings, “Tunaenda kula mawingu,” (We’re going to eat the clouds!). But the crows lose their grip, and the tortoise falls down to Earth, landing on his back and cracking his beautiful shell. This story is told in simple Kiswahili, and our girls love to sing with the tortoise!

Shambani Kwa Babu

Opulo Aenda Safari by Frank Odoi
The story of a rat named Opulo, who used to have a beautiful, fluffy tail and a nice Maasai blanket to wear on his shoulder. But Opulo is stubborn, and he refuses advice from friends when he sets off on a journey. He winds up walking straight into a thunderstorm, and ultimately loses both his beautiful clothing and his fluffy tail, and learns an important lesson.

Shambani kwa Babu by Hassan Makombo
The story of a young boy named Mumo who goes to the village to visit his grandparents. While helping his grandfather in the garden, he shoots at a bird’s nest with his slingshot, and disturbs a nest of bees. His wise grandfather quickly fans the fire, and uses the smoke to chase away the bees, and Mumo learns an important lesson.

We want our children to see themselves in the books we read, and these tales of life in Kenya definitely give our kids a chance to identify with their Kenyan culture and heritage. Since we live in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, our girls aren’t always exposed to traditional life in the rural villages. We love the traditional tales spun in these stories!

Do you read your children stories about their native country and culture? What are your favorites?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu. Follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos for The Lion and the Mouse by Natasha Sweeney, used with permission. All other photos credited to the author.

Tara Wambugu

Tara Wambugu is a wife, a mother of two, and a Kenya-based lifestyle blogger covering parenting, family life, travel, and more. A former aid worker, Tara has worked in various countries in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Central America. She is now a stay-at-home mom living in Nairobi with her husband and their two sassy little girls. You can follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni.

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PORTUGAL: Am I Really In Portugal?

PORTUGAL: Am I Really In Portugal?

PortugalI have loved Portugal for nearly my whole life. I first came here as a little girl for summer holidays with my parents. I can still remember the dry heat of the Portuguese summer, the ice-cream from the beach stalls that was never quite frozen, and the delicious pastries in the cafés. I’ve been coming back to the same city, the same coastline ever since.

The result is that, although I’ve only been actually living in Portugal for over a year, I sort of feel like a local. Take me anywhere in Portugal today and I’ll probably find the place imprinted somewhere in my memory, even though I thought I’d never been there before. I can go to the same ice-cream parlour I went to over 20 years ago and order the same flavour. There are family photos of little me sitting at the top of the farmer’s market steps just like my son does today. No wonder Portugal feels like home.

And then sometimes it is jarringly obvious that I’m not from around here. My Portuguese accent is from Brazil; sometimes I even still have problems understanding the local pronunciation. In the summer, most shop-owners think I’m an English tourist on a week’s holiday. I don’t vote, I’m not up-to-date with Portuguese politics and have no idea what’s on Portuguese TV.

But my most glaring lapse is that I don’t have any Portuguese friends.

It’s not by choice. The local expat community welcomed me with open arms and I simply haven’t had to look elsewhere. In Brazil, you could basically count all the foreigners in the city on one hand. Outside of the big cities, people would look at you funny if you spoke English. Waiters at restaurants would often confuse England with America, London with Miami.

Here, playgroup alone includes mums from Sweden, Germany, the UK and Holland. On Saturdays the organic market is full of French and German people. There are English, American and German schools up and down the coast and nobody blinks an eyelid when you say your child is bilingual.

On the one hand, it’s lovely to be part of such an eclectic international mix of people. In some ways I feel more at ease with other nomads like myself, who know what I’m talking about when I mention living out of boxes or moving every couple of years. But I worry that I’m missing out on the real Portugal. Did I really move here just to buy Waitrose tea at the supermarket and chat about the weather with other Brits?

Of course it’s lovely that I can buy peanut butter and proper English tea bags at the supermarket, but shouldn’t I be experimenting with local ingredients?

At the playground it sometimes feels that there is a bit of a “them and us” mentality between expat and local parents. Of course it’s difficult to mix when you’re not sure if the expats speak Portuguese (many of them don’t). Different attitudes to parenting don’t help: most Portuguese parents look aghast when I let my son splash through puddles without shoes or climb the slide – I in turn can’t believe they take their children to the park in such beautiful clothing (the washing! the ironing!). I wish it weren’t so. I don’t want my son growing up in Portugal but not a part of Portugal.

Since I’ve had no luck sidling up to Portuguese mums in the park, I’m trying to find other ways to connect with my community. A couple of weeks ago I bought a bus pass – what better way to get to know the neighbourhood than via the bus route? Plus, there’s always a friendly pensioner looking to chat about the weather.

Are you an expat or a local in your country? If you’re from abroad do you find it easy to mix with the locals?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Julie of Portugal. Photo credit to the author.


Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil. She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.

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