African Icons needs to be on everyone’s TBR immediately. It’s a nonfiction YA that combines history and storytelling. With maps, stories, and discussion, African Icons is a fantastic nonfiction that is perfect for adults and teens alike. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
In a richly designed work with maps, portraits, and graphics throughout, the award-winning author of the Jumbies series shows readers this underrepresented side of Black history and Black excellence.
Every year, American schoolchildren celebrate Black History Month. They study almost exclusively American stories, which are not only rooted in struggle over enslavement or oppression, but also take in only four hundred years of a rich and thrilling history that goes back many millennia across the African continent. Through portraits of ten historical figures—from Menes, the first ruler to be called Pharaoh, to Queen Idia, a sixteenth-century power broker, visionary, and diplomat—African Icons takes readers on a journey across Africa to meet some of the great leaders and thinkers whose ideas built a continent and shaped our world.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I fell in love with the premise from the summary alone. There is a world of stories about African people before enslavement that is sorely missing in schools and societal consciousness. Baptiste’s endeavor is rich, descriptive, and portrays history and facts in a lyrical and compelling way. In society which are designed to minimized Africa and African voices, African Icons wants to de-colonize our understanding of history. It’s a book that presents history as storytelling, as the raw potential of stories as pasts, while also taking back a voice.
African Icons is immersive. It presents facts with lyricism. I loved seeing these images of African rulers, of African power. For these histories to come alive in front of you. There’s so much to discover in African Icons and it’s one of those books which after finishing a chapter I wanted to tell everyone. Baptiste stresses the importance of keeping the history alive and of remembrance. Find African Icons on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.
About the Author
I am the New York Times bestselling author of Minecraft: The Crash, as well as the creepy Caribbean series The Jumbies, which includes The Jumbies (2015), Rise of the Jumbies (2017), and The Jumbie God’s Revenge (scheduled for 2019). I’ve also written the contemporary YA novel Angel’s Grace and 9 non-fiction books for kids in elementary through high school.
I’m a former elementary school teacher, I do lots of author visits, and I’m on the faculty at Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program.