It’s Tumi’s first trip to the park; Senzo can crow like his granny’s rooster and even do the dishes; a little girl’s twisty hair makes the world a better place; and another little girl discovers what goes “doof” in the night.
These are the characters in four of a dozen new books created by the awesome nonprofit project Book Dash. It teams up African writers and designers in a 12-hour “dash” to create new kids’ books, which are then distributed for free to needy children. Book Dash also offers them for free on its website for you to read on your PC, tablet or phone, or print out and keep.
What struck us about the latest batch of an ever-growing number of titles in the Book Dash archive is how compelling the illustrations that bring the books to life are. For starters, in a world where the voice of God is that of a white man and children’s books generally foreground white characters, over at Book Dash, black girls are owning the lion’s share of the new content, creating aspirational characters that kids can identify with.
Kenyan illustrator and “artist-at-large” Nyambura Kariuki’s on-the-fly drawings of Tumi in the park deploy cartoonish aesthetics that everyone can relate to – and then makes them relevant to African life as an act of empowerment.
Adrie le Roux’s unique, sketchy drawings of Senzo play off simple abstract forms that can be found throughout the archive of indigenous imagery.
In My Special Hair, illustrator Jess Jardim-Wedepohl returns to Book Dash and makes the book burst with movement, pushing a rough and delightful crayon-drawn look.
And Stephen Wallace puts his commercial experience to excellent use in The Three Doof-Doofs, a bright pop culture explosion that plays with perspective.
These are just four of the dozens of illustrators featured at Book Dash, and they are a sign that the industry is blooming.
We look forward to seeing what’s next from these artists.
To read the books, visit bookdash.org