Revising the Backlist: Africa Is Not a Country, 2nd Edition

by Carol Hinz, Associate Publisher of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books

When I was in college, I studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal, as part of a program through my university’s French department. While my French speaking and comprehension skills definitely improved, I got so many other amazing things from my three months there–including a whole new understanding of the African continent. A few of the specific highlights included living with a host family, celebrating Tabaski (also known as Eid al-Adha), taking dance lessons, studying Wolof, and enjoying the plat national, thiéboudienne.

Me outside the Baobab Center in spring 1998.

Before my trip, I often said I was going to Africa, in part because many people didn’t know exactly where Senegal was. But after coming back, I felt keenly that I had not been to “Africa.” I had been to Senegal (and briefly to the Gambia), which is just one small part of the large and tremendously diverse African continent.

Fast forward to late 2004 when Lerner Publishing Group acquired Millbrook Press. I was delighted to discover that Millbrook’s backlist included a book called Africa Is Not a Country by Margy Burns Knight, Mark Melnicove, and Anne Sibley O’Brien. And even better, the paperback was a strong seller and continued to do well year after year.

The original cover of Africa Is Not a Country

What’s not to love about a strong backlist title? Well, my inner nonfiction editor started to worry about the fact that Africa Is Not a Country had been published in 2000. I knew that South Sudan became a country in July 2011, but what else had changed that wasn’t reflected in the book?

So I began a conversation within Lerner about creating a revised edition, and I’m happy to say that the 2nd edition of Africa Is Not a Country is now available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats!

A redesigned cover for the 2nd edition

What changed? Here’s a list of key updates:

  • The endsheet art, which features children and flags from every African nation, now includes South Sudan as well as updated flags for Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Libya, and Rwanda.
  • The map early in the book includes South Sudan and its capital, Juba. Cape Verde is now Cabo Verde, and Swaziland is now Eswatini. The spelling of the capital of Western Sahara, a disputed territory, changed from El Aaiún to Laâyoune.
  • The main text no longer describes Cairo as Africa’s largest city but rather calls it “one of Africa’s largest cities.” (What’s currently the largest? Lagos, Nigeria!)
  • There is all-new text and art for the Rwanda spread. Rather than focusing on the aftermath of the genocide that took place in 1994, it highlights hand-clapping games such as mabigibigi.
  • The back matter includes updates to the population of every country, plus changes to numerous currencies and an updated explanation of the CFA (which I remember fondly from my time in Senegal but is certainly no longer pegged to the value of the French franc!).
  • The bonus info in the back matter for Eritrea no longer describes it as Africa’s newest nation. Instead, it highlights Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who in 2016 became the youngest male runner to win the New York City Marathon at the age of 19.
  • The bonus info in the back matter for Kenya still features Wangari Maathai, but it has been updated to include her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize as well the fact that after Maathai’s death in 2011, Africa Environment Day on March 3rd was changed to Wangari Maathai Day.

There are numerous other small updates as well, but I think this is enough to give a good sense of all that has changed!

The Rwanda spread with all-new text and art in the 2nd edition.

I was so pleased to have the opportunity to be involved firsthand in the updates to this book, and I hope that thanks to these changes, the book will continue to help children, families, and educators celebrate the tremendous diversity of the African continent.

Praise for the Africa Is Not a Country first edition

NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Winner, 2000

“The title says it all. Instead of the ‘vanishing tribes’ view of one Africa with tourists from different countries photographing the animals and primitive people, this informative picture book celebrates the diversity of the 53 nations that make up the continent today. . . readers will want to go on from here to explore in depth particular countries that interest them. The essential differences and connections are here.”-Booklist

To see more posts with Associate Publisher Carol Hinz click here!

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