We all Went on Safari

I haven’t traveled to Africa yet, although I am confident that my wanderlust will guide me there in the coming years.  Until then, I continue to visit Africa in books.  I like to dream of a time and place when animals, big and small,  roamed freely on an peaceful and plentiful Earth.  

If I had a pair of ruby slippers, I’d tap them together and step into the pages of  We all Went on Safari.  I’d  join Arusha, Mosi and Tumpe as they admire the animals of Tanzania from a distance with wonder, respect and honor.  

Regional focus:  Africa/Tanzania

Author:  Lauri Krebs

Illustrator: Julia Cairns

Genre:  children’s literature

In We all Went on Safari we meet Arusha, Mosi, Tumpe and their Maasai friends in Tanzania as they take us on a walking safari through the African grasslands. As we turn the pages of Kreb’s story, we encounter native animals like elephants, lions and monkeys. Along the way, we  learn to count in Swahili.

What I love:

  • The book contains an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili, a map, notes about each of the animals and facts about Tanzania and the Maasai people.
  • The story uses repetition, which invites children to participate in read a-louds.
  • Krebs weaves gentle rhymes and descriptive adjectives into her writing.
  • The illustrations by Julia Cairns are playful, vibrant and whimsical.

Themes: counting, habitat, African animals


  • What animals did you most like in the story?
  • How old are you in Swahili?
  • How are you similar and different from the children in Tanzania?
  • Where would you like to explore with your friends? Why?


  • Investigate a specific animal from Tanzania.
  • Make animal masks with supplies found at home. Play “safari” in your garden.
  • Design your own Maasai necklace with a paper plate and paint.African Necklace Craft



Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Today I ask myself, “what small change can I accomplish that will make a difference in our world?”  I live in rural Guatemala where plastics are a common site on roads, in parks and on the shores of our lake.  Recently my daughters and I pledged to give up plastic straws–a small change, with a big impact.  And you?

Regional focus:  Kenya

Author:  Jeanette Winter

Illustrator: Jeanette Winter

Genre:  children’s literature, biography


Wangari’s Trees of Peace is the  inspiring biography of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist, activist and educator from Kenya.  We learn of Wangari’s journey from childhood where she lived below the shade of trees near Mount Kenya to her adult years when she defended  trees and organized reforestation programs which eventually lead to an internationally recognized program known as the “Green Belt Movement.” Wangari motivated local women from her country to plant more than 30 million trees throughout Kenya.  In 2004, Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to the environment.

What I love:

  • A story with an inspiring main character who is an agent of change for her community.
  • Colorful illustrations that are playful and serious at the same time.
  • Wangari shares a true story of challenge, hardship and courage with vocabulary that is approachable for children.

Themes: environmental education, women leaders, bravery


  • How do we know that Wangari is brave?
  • Why are trees important?
  • What have you accomplished this week to help our planet?


  • Imagine you are Wangari and, plant a tree (or a few).
  • Wangari is a woman who inspires many because she was brave, courageous, and stood up for what she believed in.  Make a picture and/or write about an inspiring woman in your life .  Why does she inspire you?
  • Learn more about Wangari’s life by watching this  short documentary.
  • Make a collage using the warm colors of Africa (red, orange, yellow) for a background with watercolor paint.  Tear small pieces of construction paper to collage a tree on top of the painted background.


Handa’s Surprise

Regional focus:  Kenya

Author:  Eileen Browne

Genre:  Children’s literature

Take a trip to young Handa’s Kenya where you will learn of the fruits, animals and terrain of her village in Eileen Browne’s playful story, Handa’s Surprise. Handa plans to surprise her best friend, Akeyo with a basket of fruit and wonders what fruit she will most like. Little does she know that the true surprise is on her.

What I love:

  • Browne’s illustrations are lush and vibrant.
  • Children are engaged with the element of surprise that is woven into the text.

Themes:  friendship, kindness


  • What acts of kindness have you delivered to your friends?
  • How do we know that someone is a good friend?
  • What fruits are grown in your region of the world?
  • What animals do you see when you walk in your neighborhood?


  • Rewrite the story as “Child’s Name” Surprise. Use fruits and vegetables  that are found in his/her life.
  • Investigate a new fruit or animal from Handa’s Surprise.
  • Young children can  create a paper weaving  like Handa’s basket and practice over/under patterns.