Books, Learning, Reviews

African Icons: A Wonderful Journey Into History

Today’s featured book is African Icons, a nonfiction read by Tracy Baptiste that has already received rave reviews. I am always awed by books that shine light upon things forgotten or little-known, and further do it well. This book is certainly one of them. So I knew I had be part of the blog tour for this book.

Happy Publication Day to African Icons and thank you to the publishers for inviting me along on this journey.

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African Icons: Book Review and Blog Tour

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me on this blog tourand for the beautiful ARC of this book.

Book Info

Title: African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History
Author: Tracey Baptiste
Illustrator: Hillary D. Wilson
Length:  176 pages
Publishers: Algonquin Young Readers (October 19, 2021)
Genre: Elementary and Middle-grade Nonfiction/History/Multicultural
Age-Range: 8 – 12 (and up!)
Source: Publisher ARC


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.  

My Thoughts on African Icons

My Poetic Sneak Peek of this Book in Sunday’s Post

African Icons
From Aesop to Imhotep, Menes to Terence,
here is to them! May we learn,
may we know how each of them
shaped lives, their own and ours too,
how these great African icons, every one
of them played a part in history.
Here is to their everlasting grand story!

~Vidya Tiru @ LadyInReadWrites

First Thoughts

Some books manage to awe, inform, and further inspire the reader to learn more. This is certainly one of those books. It does all this and more. I wondered why Baptiste was familiar to me until I checked the other books by her, and there it was, The Jumbies series! Of course that is why! While you might not find any other references to Baptiste on my blog before this, it is simply because The Jumbies is one of those numerous books that are waiting for a review from my side!! Suffice to say, I loved the first book in that series (the only one I read as I did not realize there were more later).

What I Loved About African Icons

The Icons Themselves

I love the selection of icons featured in this book; these African icons include royalty, military leaders, scholars, poets, and writers, and more. Baptiste amazingly includes both male and female influencers, and ensures that the whole African continent is covered as the book progresses. No matter who they were, their story is a fascinating one indeed, and one that needs to be shared over and over again.

You will find yourself learning more about well-known names like Aesop or Imhotep, as well as discovering others who are not as well-known, but ought to be, like Queen Idia or Terence.

and More

In addition to featuring these people who shaped history and the world, Baptiste also gives readers a look into so much more. We get a pretty good glimpse into the rich culture and long history of the land itself, the natural wonders, as well as the geographical, political, and economic landscape of Africa over time. She also includes other stories in between, like the libraries of Timbuktu (I think my favorite part of this book) or a brief introduction to the griot – a storyteller, poet, and musician – a veritable all-in-one and an essential personage of some royal courts.

The Structure/Layout of the Book

I loved the chronological structure of the book, starting from almost the very dawn of civilization (in this case with the story of Menes from the thirty first century BC) to the last section which talks about Africa in the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. In addition to the stories of the ten icons, the book also includes additional totally creatively titled sections scattered across the book in between the iconic stories. I especially loved the titles: The Sahara Yawns and Libraries in the Sand.

The Narrative

Baptiste’s narrative is straightforward and simple, yet information rich. Each section is perfectly sized for its target audience of 8 – 12 years of age, while still being appealing to older readers with the amazing learning it provides. The book makes history interesting and enriching, and definitely inspires readers to learn more about featured icons and stories, as well as those mentioned briefly, and those not included here.

The Illustrations

Wilson’s illustrations are rich with life, color, and details, and a wonderful accompaniment to the narrative. In addition to the portraits of the icons, there are other beautiful artworks (including landscapes or other relevant images). The book also includes a few photographs and maps that help the reader gain more out of this already amazing book.

The Extras

Do not miss the introduction or the author’s note. The source notes and bibliography provide valuable sources of more learning for those who will want to (inevitably after reading this book).

In Summary

Simply put, a must-read for anyone and everyone of all ages so they can learn more about the people featured in this book.

Get It Here

Amazon || Book Depository || Target ||
Barnes and Noble
 || BookShop || IndieBound

More Book Info

Praise for African Icons

“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

Miraculous. [Baptiste] 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. … The result is empowering, necessary, and required reading for all. Game changing.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

About the Author

Tracey Baptiste lived in Trinidad until she was fifteen; she grew up on jumbie stories and fairy tales. She is a New York Times bestselling author of Minecraft: The Crash, and a former teacher who works as a writer and editor. Visit her online at and on Twitter: @TraceyBaptiste.

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Thank you once again to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me the physical ARC of this book; and for inviting me for the book tour. All opinions are my own.

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, what do you think of the featured book now that you have read my thoughts about it? I hope you pick it up for yourself or for someone else (but still read it yourself too!) Did it remind you of any other books? Do let me know your thoughts on this post, and as always all comments and recommendations are welcome!

7 thoughts on “African Icons: A Wonderful Journey Into History

  1. I love it when books share something historically significant for other cultures. I am Asian but learning about African Icons are amazing!

  2. I am always looking for new books to read, being able to learn something while reading is always a bonus so I will have to look into finding a copy of this to read. Thanks for sharing.

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