Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales (audiobook)

Common Sense Media says

Magical storytelling brings African folktales to life.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Not only is this collection of folktales from across the African continent brimming with cultural lessons and stories but, in audio version, it also teaches the joys of storytelling.

Positive messages

Fables, mostly involving animals, and stories present positive lessons and morals, while nature myths explain the stars, clouds, etc. Good deeds are rewarded, and honesty wins out.  

Positive role models

Characters who do the right thing are rewarded, while those who do not are punished.

Violence & scariness

A hint of violence is present in a few of the folktales, though the lesson is always that violence does not pay. Some of the moral lessons may be a bit harsh for younger listeners, and mentions of blood, animals eating one another, the chopping off of heads, and sticks used for hitting may be better understood by older kids.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this audio-book brings alive 16 of the African folktales Nelson Mandela gathered in a book by the same name. Stories are read by many different actors, and a pdf. of original illustrations is included. The proceeds benefit children in South Africa orphaned and impacted by HIV/AIDS.

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What's the story?

The three discs of this audio book present an amazing collection of 16 folktales from various areas of Africa. Some are animal fables, some are stories about people learning lessons, and others are myths that explain the natural world. Each runs from 5 to 22 minutes long, and most are sprinkled with snippets of African chants and music. A variety of well-known actors and performers read the stories, and the first disc opens with a special address from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The third finishes with five songs, one a traditional Zulu song and the others original African music, as well as two bonus pdf. files that offer a foreword by Nelson Mandela, a map of Africa with flags marking the origin of each tale, and a collection of the original artwork that is part of the printed version.

Is it any good?


The stories are rich and exciting, and sometimes slightly violent, as traditional folktales tend to be. Each one is filled with some combination of fantastic beasts, cunning creatures, good deeds being rewarded, snake charmers, princesses, magic spells, and riddles. Hearing the adventures read aloud by such  outstanding performers as Samuel L. Johnson, Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman or Whoopi Goldberg, to name only a few,  definitely dramatizes the storytelling even more than the print version would do. And the music and singing add a whole other dimension.

Hearing the stories read aloud is essential to this ultimate value and enjoyment of this book, and to Nelson Mandela's hope that the voice of the storyteller never die. However, although the exquisite illustrations of the printed version are shared on the disc, they may not be available to everyone, and they really should not be missed. Perhaps the best option would be for readers to put both the audio and the print versions on their shelves. 



A pdf. presents original artwork that accompanied the printed version of the book. African artists, most from South Africa, created colorful expressive illustrations for each of the 16 stories.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about each of the stories presented here. Does the story remind you of any other you have heard? Who are the characters? What lessons did they learn?

  • Each story came from somewhere on the map that can be printed out. Find each one. What kind of trees, flowers, and countryside do you imagine when you hear the story? Do you think that says anything about the place of its origin?

  • Would you rather hear a story, or read one? How is the experience different, or the same? How do stories change when they are told by different people, in different times and places?

  • How do the songs add to the stories? What kinds of things do you notice in the music?

  • If families are able to look at the artwork, they will enjoy talking about ways the artists showed the characters and why they chose to paint the scene as they did. Kids might enjoy making their own illustrations.

Book details

Author:Nelson Mandela
Book type:Fiction
Publishers:Artists for a New South Africa, Hachette
Publication date:July 1, 2009
Read aloud:8
Read alone:8

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Adult Written byshang777 July 24, 2009

A great audiobook with all kinds of related activities.

check out the audiobook's website which has all kinds of additional information, discussion questions and coloring pages to download and print out.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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