Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book

All nonfiction books should be this beautifully illustrated.  Tom Feelings’ artwork make this seem like a story book, but the text, by Muriel Feelings, is a unique take on the abundance of ABC books out there.  Each letter of the alphabet begins a word in Swahili, an African language spoken in many countries.  Pronunciation, definition and cultural significance is given, and the introduction provides more information on Swahili while the back matter includes notes about the art.

For those Disney-loving students, ask them what “simba” means (lion).  Use it and “hakuna matata” to draw them into the book and the Swahili language.  Since Swahili is mainly an East African language, it is not likely many of the Africans brought to the United States as slaves spoke Swahili.  A fun activity is to write a simple poem or phrase and translate it into Swahili.  You can use only words from Jambo if you wish, or you can use an online translation tool.  Can you guess what  “Ilikuwa ni usiku wa giza na mkali” means?

One such tool is found at http://freetranslation.translation-services-usa.com/Swahili/ . My phrase is the translation of “It was a dark and stormy night” which is the first line of one of the greatest children’s novels of all time.


About AnEducationInBooks

Wendy BooydeGraaff is the author of Salad Pie, a children's picture book published by Ripple Grove Press. Her work has been published in Emrys Journal Online, The Emerson Review, Jellyfish Review, Bending Genres, SmokeLong Quarterly and Leopardskin & Limes, and is forthcoming in NOON. Read more work at wendybooydegraaff.com or find her on Twitter @BooyTweets.
This entry was posted in Love that art, Nonfiction, Picture books and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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