Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions


Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions

Margaret Musgrove, text

Leo and Diane Dillon, illustrations

Dial Books, 1976 (now available: Picture Puffin Books)

28 pp.

Age: 6+

Interests: Africa, folklore, traditions, rituals, family life, alphabet books, geography

Also by these illustrators: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears; The People Could Fly – The Picture Book; Who’s in Rabbit’s House: A Masai Tale; Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch

An alphabet book about 26 African tribes. Each page features an illustration depicting members of the tribe in traditional dress, along with a dwelling, tools or instruments, and a local bird or animal. And for each tribe there is a short description of some aspect of their life: details of a ritual or of dress, music, agricultural practices, family relations, etc.

Far from being a dry, educational look at African customs, this book is both engaging and beautiful. The text is poetic and evocative, giving just the right amount of information to pique interest without getting bogged down in too much ethnographic detail. The paintings, while highly educational, are also absolutely gorgeous.

As the writer puts it in her introduction, Africa is “an enormous and varied continent inhabited by hundreds of different peoples whose array of customs and traditions are as diverse as the land itself.” It’s helpful to be reminded of this, that Africa is not a single entity, and the author and illustrators have given us a marvellous taste of its variety in a colourful and entertaining manner. A really wonderful book.

(available at


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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