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So That’s What God is Like
Temba is the smallest in his family except for baby Hannah, but he is curious to know what God is like. On a walk home from church in rural Africa, Granny points out images of God all around them—the wind that can’t be seen but you know it’s there, the firm rock they use to cross the stream, even Temba’s mother, lovingly nursing his little sister. But Granny reassures the boy that this big God loves little things—especially little children.
About writing So That’s What God is Like:
So That’s What God is Like began when I heard someone speak about communicating spiritual truths to children. As I listened, all sorts of biblical images of God popped into my head. Since I had lived ten years in Africa, I saw those images, not in a Middle Eastern Bible-times setting, but in modern rural Africa. I went home and quickly wrote the story, but it needed lots of revision. A friend who worked with pre-school children suggested a refrain like “So that’s what God is like.” Another reader suggested spending more time in the beginning on Temba as a real little boy, perhaps one who feels very little compared to God. I wrote and rewrote the story many times to get it just right. I can’t thank Janet Wilson enough for her spectacular paintings of Africa.
Don’t expect your work to be perfect the first time. It has been said that writers write, but good writers rewrite.
More Picture Books about Africa
If you enjoyed So That’s What God is Like, take a look at some of our family’s favorite picture books of Africa. For more books about Africa, many published outside North America, see my Goodreads page or ask your librarian to help you.
Ashanti to Zulu; African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (1976). New York, Dial.
Beautiful, if somewhat idealized, illustrations represent twenty-six African cultures with brief paragraphs of text.
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain; a Nandi Tale by Verna Aardmea, illustrated by Beatiz Vidal (1981). New York, Dial.
This cumulative rhyme in the tradition of “The House that Jack Built” tells how a Kenyan herdsman caused the rains to begin.
Elizabeti’s School by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale (2002). New York, Lee and Low.
Authentic details of Tanzanian life such as the braiding of hair and wearing of school uniforms make this story of the first day of school a little different for American children.
Fire on the Mountain by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (1994). New York, Simon and Schuster.
This story of a clever young shepherd boy and his sister outwitting a dishonest rich man is a retelling of a traditional tale. The illustrations give an authentic glimpse of the rich culture of Ethiopia where the author grew up.
The Fortune Tellers by Lloyd Alexander, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1992) New York, Dutton.
A fortune-teller’s predictions come true in amusing ways in this delightful story with illustrations rich in detail of Cameroonian life.
Jambo Means Hello; a Swahili Alphabet Book by Muriel Feelings, illustrated by Tom Feelings (1974). New York, Dial.
Soft black ink and white tempra illustrations accompany a Swahili word and cultural information for every letter of the alphabet.
Mandela; from the Life of the South African Statesman written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper (1996). New York, Philomel.
This richly illustrated summary of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s life emphasizes his rural beginnings and exposes children to the realities of a racist society.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (1987). New York, Lothrop, Lee and Shepherd.
Two sisters with different temperaments travel to the capital, each hoping to be chosen as the king’s wife. Spectacular illustrations show the well-known ruins of Great Zimbabwe as the site of the king’s city.
Only a Pigeon by Jane Kurtz and Christopher Kurtz, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (1997). New York, Simon and Schuster.
Ondu-ahlem trains his pigeons in this tale of a modern Ethiopian street child effectively illustrated with watercolors.
We All Went on Safari; a Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Julia Cairns (2003). Cambridge, MA, Barefoot.
Spend a day with a Maasai clan in their bright red wraps as they count African animals. Additional pages give information about the animals and the Maasai culture of Tanzania.
When Africa Was Home by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (1991). New York, Orchard.
My own daughters strongly identified with this book about a family missing Africa when they have returned to the United States.