African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History

by Tracey Baptiste (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

"In African Icons, Baptiste engages in the hard work of unveiling the myths about the African continent to young readers . . . This is a great beginner's guide to pre-colonial Africa." --Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

Meet ten real-life kings, queens, inventors, scholars, and visionaries who lived in Africa thousands of years ago and changed the world. Black history began long ago with the many cultures and people of the African continent. Through portraits of ten heroic figures, author Tracey Baptiste takes readers on a journey across Africa to meet some of the great leaders and thinkers whose vision built a continent and shaped the world. Illustrator Hillary D. Wilson's brilliant portraits accompany each profile, along with vivid, information-filled landscapes, maps, and graphics for readers to pore over and return to again and again.


Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

This riveting nonfiction work by Baptiste (the Jumbies series), aiming to reveal how "Africa has fueled the world," details the lives of 10 individuals, including Aesop, Merneith, Terence, and Tin Hinan, from African dynasties that are rarely mentioned in, and frequently deliberately eliminated from, world history. Interspersed passages of context convey a rich account of innovative, oft-untold breakthroughs that took place in Africa before European colonization: forming a functioning government, exporting goods such as turquoise and copper, and creating fine literature that evolved into the comedy of manners. From Menes's embodiment of the sacred god Horus to nomadic Berbers crossing the Sahara, readers will learn about events and figures with impressive legacies. For example, Hannibal Barca, a war tactician, outstrategized Rome for years using mobile units and the natural environment to his advantage, inspiring myriad military leaders. Each profile is accompanied by Wilson's lush full-color art, depicting African luminaries and kingdoms in all of their glory. Concise and well researched, this robust, historically accurate timeline of the "great continent and its people" will serve as an invaluable resource for years to come. Back matter features an author's note, source notes, and bibliography. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 6-10—To remedy the practice of limiting lesson plans on Black history to enslavement, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement, Baptiste sheds light on the rich and complex pre-enslavement history of the African continent, much of which has been long buried because of the bias and racism of white gatekeepers. Thankfully, Baptiste has unearthed them for young readers through copious research and synthesized them into a spellbinding collection that spotlights 10 historical figures, including writers, kings and queens, and military leaders. Each profile opens with a majestic portrait by Wilson, whose palette of purples and golds imbues the subjects with a regal feel. Interstitial chapters provide background on geography, historical context, and technology. Transitions between selections are smooth; the volume reads more like a cohesive narrative than a group of entries. The language is accessible to upper elementary readers, but the book will find a better home in middle school libraries. The back matter is a librarian's dream, with almost 14 pages of bibliography and source notes, in addition to notes from the author and designer, an index, and further reading. Educators should use this work to discuss how bias in research and history has resulted in groundbreaking figures of color being pushed to the margins. VERDICT An impeccably researched revelation that fills a too wide gap in collections; it's unfair how long it's taken for these histories to be made public to young readers.—Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A New York Public Library 2021 Best Book for Kids

"In African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History, Baptiste engages in the hard work of unveiling the myths about the African continent to young readers. She pieces together the stories of ten people in a continent that fueled the world. This is a great beginner's guide to pre-colonial Africa."
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

​"Baptiste sheds light on the rich and complex pre-enslavement history of the African continent . . . A spellbinding collection . . . An impeccably researched revelation that fills a too wide gap in collections; it's unfair how long it's taken for these histories to be made public to young readers."
—SLJ, starred review

"What Baptiste accomplishes in only 139 pages of narrative is near miraculous. She lifts the veil intentionally cast over African history, granting readers a veritable feast of information and inspiration . . . Wilson's portraits of each figure exude such beauty, strength, power, and, above all, dignity as to be nearly breathtaking. Each one gazes out at readers with a regal confidence that's sure to inspire them to gaze back . . . Black readers of any age will see themselves reflected in the amazing lives chronicled, many of whom may be new to readers. Non-Black readers will get a window into the marvelous history of a continent oft overlooked and relegated to a single narrative. Refreshingly free of generalizations, this impressively researched work was clearly a massive undertaking (as evidenced by the source notes), presenting figures from multiple parts of the continent in the truth of their cultural and historical richness. The result is empowering, necessary, and required reading for all. Game changing."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Riveting . . . A rich account of innovative, oft-untold breakthroughs that took place in Africa before European colonization . . . Lush full-color art, depicting African luminaries and kingdoms in all of their glory. Concise and well researched, this robust, historically accurate timeline of the 'great [African] continent and its people' will serve as an invaluable resource for years to come."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Readers will be fascinated by the lives of these icons and gain a real appreciation of Africa's underrepresented place in world history."
—Booklist

"Tracey Baptiste takes on a formidable task with this book . . . Baptiste's muscular prose is compelling and the majority of the figures will be new to readers. Even the ones I had heard of (Aesop and Hannibal, for example) were put into a historical context that refreshed my interest."
—Youth Services Book Review

"African Icons is a great read... It empowers Black kids, informing them that they can do great things just like the people before them. ...jam-packed with amazing facts."
—The City Book Review, Kids' BookBuzz

Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9781616209001
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
October 20, 2021
Series
-

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