Teens, Books, and South Africa

While planning our trip to South Africa, worlds and miles away from our lives in New England, I looked for ways to interest my teenagers in the trip. Although my kids (ages 13 and 15) like to travel, I have learned that if they read a book or watch a movie about the place we’re visiting, they are more invested in the trip.

So before we left on our adventure, I did some research and spent some time at the library. My kids each read a few of the books before we left, we bought a few books for the trip, and while we were there, we learned of a few more.

Ranging in ability, maturity, and intensity, some books appealed more to my daughter and others to my son. Neither of my kids read all the books but read the ones which interested them, including a few when we returned home. Following are a few of their favorites:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba: an inspiring true story about a 14-year old boy who builds a windmill in rural Malawi, a country in southernAfrica. My son read this book in school and referred to it often during the trip.

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony:  Both kids loved this funny and exciting true story about poachers, elephants, and life on a South African game reserve.

Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin: my son enjoyed this true story about Apartheid, the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and the changing of South Africa.

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott: my daughter liked this true story about a young girl growing up in rural Botswana during the 1980s and 1990s.

Waiting for the Rain: A Novel of South Africa by Sheila Gordon: a story of two boys, one white and one black, growing up on a South African farm during Apartheid. My daughter and I enjoyed reading this book together, before and after the trip.