Bala  Newsletter: March 2013


Issue 4: March 2013



*Bala means "Read" in Setswana, a language that is widely spoken  in Southern Africa.
Join our Bala Mailing list to keep informed about K-12 literature on Africa.   This issue of Bala features the 2013 Children's Africana Book Awards.   This year the awards committee created a 'Best Books' list instead of a single Best Book in each category.
  Brenda Randolph, Senior Editor 
In This Issue
Best Books: Older Readers
Best Books: Young Children
Adopt a CABA Book
Africana Book Club
About CABA
Nomination Guidelines
Featured Article
This issue highlights the winners of the 2013 Children's Africana Book Awards sponsored by the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association. 

Oxford University

A Best Book for Older Readers 2013

Abina and the Important Men of Ghana: 
A Graphic History 
Trevor Getz and Liz Clarke

 "Am I free?" Abina and the Important Men recovers the compelling courtroom drama of a young woman who demanded this question in West Africa in 1876. Seized from her family as a teenager, forced to carry heavy loads, and sold into domestic slavery, Abina wanted to have control over her own life again. She brought her case to a colonial court, where a British magistrate leaned on African merchants and kings to decide Abina's fate. This is a universal story of deception and truth that will appeal to anyone who has sought greater independence from the obligations of family, employer, or government. Abina's legal battle comes to life in the graphic novel. A section on historical background explains the complexities of early British occupation in West Africa when a young woman could be simultaneously free and enslaved.


Trevor Getz is Professor of African and World History at San Francisco State and the author of nine books. He is currently working on a digital humanities project to democratize information on history and heritage. He is the editor of the African World Histories series published by Oxford University Press and is the lead author of the forthcoming world history project Weaving the Human Tapestry, also with Oxford University Press


Illustrator Liz Clarke lives in Cape Town, South Africa


Frances Lincoln
         A Best Book for Older Readers 2013

Far From Home
Na'ima Robert

   Far from Home, set in Zimbabwe, introduces two families' struggles, beginning with the impact of the Land Reapportionment Act under white political rule and ending with the land reapportionment program under black rule, 20 years after independence. Roberts provides a very human face to the impact of these two events on the lives of her protagonists and gives the reader insight into the emotional, personal feelings of the mothers, fathers, children and extended families involved. Fear, anger, hatred, joy, beauty, contentment, all of these basic human experiences come to life in this book, on both sides of the color question. 
Na'ima Robert born Thando Nomhle McLaren and is descended from Zulu people on her mother's side and Scottish Highlanders on her father's side. She was born in Leeds and grew up in post-independence Zimbabwe. Far from Home is a crossover YA/Adult novel.  Her previous novels for teenagers include From Somalia, With Love and Boy vs. Girl. She has four children and divides her time between London and Cairo.


A Best Book for Young Children 2013
Dial Books

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind
William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator) 

   When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba's Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone's crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library and discovered out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind. 


William Kamkwamba was born in 1987 in Dowa, Malawi. His windmill project drew many visitors and news of his inventions reached Emeka Okafor, program director for TEDGlobal, a prestigious gathering of thinkers and innovators. Kamkwamba presented at the TEDGlobal Conference in Arusha, Tanzania in 2008. He earned scholarships to complete secondary school and eventually moved to the United States. With co-author Bryan Mealer he published his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. In the fall of 2010 William entered Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.

Bryan Mealer is a former Associated Press staff correspondent and the author of several adult books, including All Things Must Fight to Live, which details his experience reporting the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2003-07 for the Associated Press and Harper's. 
Elizabeth Zunon was born in Albany, NY and grew up in French-speaking Ivory Coast (Cte d'Ivoire), West Africa.  Drawing and painting have always been among the most important things to her. Surrounded by the bright, vibrant colors of everyday West African fabrics and tropical vegetation, Elizabeth's love of color, pattern and stories grew and lingered. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a B.F.A. in Illustration in 2006. Her first illustrated picture book, My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey, is the winner of a 2012 Gold Moonbeam Award. She lives in Albany, NY, where she explores a multicultural world through painting, beading, sewing, and collage.


A Best Book for Young Children 2013
Tundra Books

When I Get Older:The Story Behind "Wavin" FLAG
K'naan and Sol Guy
Rudy Gutierrez (illustrator) 

K'naanSomali-Canadian poet, rapper, singer, and song-writer tells his own story in his first book for children, 
When I Get Older. He grew up in Mogadishu where his grandfather was a renowned poet who passed on his love of words to his grandson.  When the Somali Civil War began in 1991, K'naan was just thirteen. His mother made the difficult decision to move her family to North America. First in New York and then in Toronto, K'naan faced many challenges. Music helped him make connections and relate to the new culture in Toronto. He enjoyed worldwide success when his song, "Wavin' Flag" became the anthem of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. K'naan continues to make music and raise awareness about social and economic issues. He lives in New York.


Sol Guy is a manager, producer, consultant, and director of an independent music label. He has worked with notable artists such as Lauryn Hill, P Diddy, India Arie,The Roots, Outkast, Dead Prez, B.I.G. and The Wu-Tang Clan. 


Rudy Gutierrez received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in New York, where he currently teaches. His many awards include a Gold Medal from the New York Society of Illustrators and a three time winner of the Pura Belpr Honor award, given by the American Library Association. He lives in Bogota, New Jersey. 
 A Best Book For Young Children                        
Boyds Mills 
                   Ostrich and Lark                      
Marilyn Nelson
Kuru Art Project (illustrators) 

  Ostrich and Lark spend their days on the grasslands of southern Africa surrounded by a chorus of birdsong. From his perch in a tree Lark joins the chorus, while below Ostrich is silent. Then comes the joyful day when Ostrich finds his voice. This picture book about an unlikely friendship is the result of collaboration between the award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson and the San artists of Botswana.  
Marilyn Nelson (aka Marilyn Nelson Waniek) was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, and holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (MA, 1970) and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D., 1979). Her many poetry books include Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem (2004) a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Carver: A Life in Poems (2001) a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a National Book Award finalist, and a Newbery Honor Book, A Wreath for Emmett Till (2005). Dr. Nelson was named Poet Laureate of Connecticut in June, 2001. She is Emeritus Professor at the University of Connecticut and director of Soul Mountain Retreat, a writers' colony. 
Kuru Art Project in Botswana formed in 1990 as part of a family of organizations dedicated to empowering the San with cultural revival and modern survival techniques. The artists create contemporary art, with no formal art lessons to influence their own innate abilities, using different techniques: linocuts, lithographs, oil on canvas, and more. The San were the first people of southern Africa. Their way of life is documented in rock paintings that date back thousands of years.  
A Best Book For Young Children    

Orca Publisher
The Matatu
Eric Walters
       Eva Campbell (illustrator) 

 A young Kenyan boy takes a ride on the matatu bus with his grandfather for his fifth birthday. Along the way his grandfather tells the story of why dogs chase the bus, goats run from it, and sheep pay no attention to it. 


Eric Walters was born in Canada. He is the bestselling author of over seventy books. He is the only three time winner of both the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch and Red Maple Awards He divides his time between writing, presenting to schools around the world and running Creation of Hope, an organization that serves the needs of orphans in Kikima, Kenya. This picture book was inspired by a story told to him Ruth Kyatha while he was on one of his yearly trips to Kenya. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario.
Eva Campbell was born in Ghana and spent her childhood in Barbados and Jamaica. She has an M.F.A. from the University of Victoria (1994), and a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Science and Technology, Ghana. In addition to painting she teaches art at Lester B. Pearson College in Victoria, BC. Her interest is in painting the human form, particularly in relation to identity and subjectivity. 


A Best Book For Young Children 
Dial Books
Hands Around the Library: 
Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books 
Susan Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
Susan Roth (illustrator) 

  Text and illustrations describe how Egypt's students, librarians, and demonstrators gathered around the Library of Alexandria in January of 2011 amidst turmoil to protect the building which stood as a representation of freedom. In that moment, the people of Egypt revealed how the love of books and libraries can unite a country, even one in turmoil. 

Susan Roth was born in New York City. She grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, earning her bachelor's (art) and master's (printmaking, art history) degrees from Mills College in Oakland, California.  Susan has lived in California, Washington, D.C., and Maryland and now makes her home back in New York City. She is the author of more than forty books for children. 

Karen Leggett Abouraya is a radio and print journalist who has reviewed children's books for the New York Times and served as president of the Children's Book Guild in Washington, DC. This is her first book for children. She lives near Washington DC.

Adopt a CABA Book!



Help us Promote CABA Winners


  • Email the title of the CABA winner you would like to adopt to:    
  • Receive your official 'CABA Adoption' certificate. 
  • Promote your book in your community.  
  • Purchase and give copies of the book to youth and under-resourced schools.    


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About the CABA 


The Children's Africana Book Awards were established in 1991 by the Outreach Council of the  African Studies Association to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children's materials on Africa in U.S. schools and libraries.The jury includes Outreach Council members, specialists in children's literature and university-based scholars.  


Visit the our CABA webpage to learn more about CABA. Download lists of previous awards for Young Children and for Older Readers.




2014 Nomination Guidelines 


Publishers of children's and young adult books on African themes copyrighted in 2013 are invited to review 2014 Nomination Process Guidelines. Titles submitted for 2014 award consideration should be mailed to the award committee by December 31, 2013.

Reviews of nominated titles are published online in 
Africa Access Review.  Essays on the winning titles and selected reviews are published each year in Sankofa:  A Journal of African Children's and Young Adult Literature. 



Please contact the publicity director for the Children's Africana Book Awards,

Harriet McGuire by phone at 703.549-8208 or by e-mail: 

Brenda Randolph, Chair of Awards Committee: