mixed media

Mixed Media January 2024: Children’s Africana Book Awards

Want to help children learn more about Africa through accurate, engaging books? Since 1991, the Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) have honored the best of those published in the United States, thanks to Africa Access, which is based in the Center for African Studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Below are the 2023 winners, in the two categories, with honor books and helpful resources listed on the website cfas.howard.edu/CABA.

Young Children

Bottle Tops: The Art of El Anatsui

By Alison Goldberg

Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Lee and Low, 2022, $20.95

An informative, fascinating text and vivid mixed media illustrations tell the true story of a vibrant artist named El Anatsui. As an art student in Ghana, he yearned to make art not in the European tradition but to “connect with the history of the people around him.” After moving to Nigeria to teach, he began actively infusing the new with the old, mixing ground-up bits of old pots with fresh clay to fashion new pots resonant of memory. He is especially interested in using “materials with a history” in his work, ordinary objects like tin lids, driftwood and cooking utensils. What story might they convey of the past? Over time, the artist started using colorful bottle tops in large sculptures evocative of kente cloth and African history. El Anatsui’s art has been exhibited around the world, and he continues to create today because, as he puts it, “fresh ideas keep coming.”

Lion Lights: My Invention That Made Peace with Lions

By Richard Turere, with Shelly Pollock

Illustrated by Sonia Possentini

Tilbury House, 2022, $18.95

As a youngster in Kenya, Richard Turere had a vital task: to watch over his Maasai family’s cows and keep them safe from lions. The boy knew that this might mean killing the lions, whose numbers are dwindling worldwide. Could there be a better way? In this compelling, inspiring picture book, Turere, with Shelly Pollock, tells his own story of how his love of tinkering with electronics led to his invention, at age 12, of an affordable, portable system of blinking lights that scare off encroaching lions. Turere’s important livestock-protection device, which he called Lion Lights, is now used in India, South America and other African countries. In 2023, he was awarded the prestigious Young Inventor Prize.

Older Readers

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun

By Tola Okogwu

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022, $18.99

In this fast-paced middle-grade fantasy, Onyeka’s humdrum life in London quickly transforms when the unruly hair she bemoans proves to be her superpower—and saves her best friend from drowning. With her mother, Onyeka travels to Nigeria to attend the Academy of the Sun, where young people with powers like hers – called Solari – are trained. But soon she and her new friends are catapulted into danger when Onyeka, on the trail of her mysteriously vanished Solari father, begins to uncover the secrets of those in power. Lively dialogue and a plot full of surprising twists will keep readers turning the pages to find out what happens next.

The Door of No Return

By Kwame Alexander

Little, Brown, 2022, $17.99

Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander adds another stellar title to his acclaimed novels in verse The Crossover and Booked. His new book for ages 10 and up, though, focuses on the Asante Kingdom – now known as Ghana – of the 1860s, rather than contemporary America. Mischievous 12-year-old Kofi Offin enjoys swimming and the easy routine of his village until the day his brother must fight a brutal foe. Soon Kofi finds himself forced into a long, terrible journey and a life far removed from anything he has ever known.

Mr. Greg & Cass McCombs Sing and Play New Folk Songs for Children

By Washington Parent Staff

Mr. Greg & Cass McCombs Sing and Play New Folk Songs for Children

The songs on the first album by songwriter and preschool teacher Mr. Greg and acclaimed indie artist Cass McCombs celebrate the joys of learning and discovery. Set to tunes reminiscent of Ella Jenkins and Woody Guthrie, the duo sings about the importance of friendship, understanding those different from yourself and taking care of your body. They also pay musical tribute to heroic figures of bravery and justice with songs like Requiem for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk. Part of the 75th Anniversary of Folkways Records, this album will come packaged in old-school textured black tip-on jackets with wrap-around paste-on artwork. Limited edition yellow vinyl will be available only from Smithsonian Folkways mail-order. (Available all the usual digital places, too.) The release contains an illustrated booklet with suggested activities for parents and teachers that correspond to each song.The songs on the first album by songwriter and preschool teacher Mr. Greg and acclaimed indie artist Cass McCombs celebrate the joys of learning and discovery. Set to tunes reminiscent of Ella Jenkins and Woody Guthrie, the duo sings about the importance of friendship, understanding those different from yourself and taking care of your body. They also pay musical tribute to heroic figures of bravery and justice with songs like Requiem for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk. Part of the 75th Anniversary of Folkways Records, this album will come packaged in old-school textured black tip-on jackets with wrap-around paste-on artwork. Limited edition yellow vinyl will be available only from Smithsonian Folkways mail-order. (Available all the usual digital places, too.) The release contains an illustrated booklet with suggested activities for parents and teachers that correspond to each song.