Mansa Musa: The Richest Man in History | written by Our Story Media Group & illustrated by Emanuel Colban 


Out Now from Our Story Media Group; 39 pages

Content Warning: N/A

About the Author: “The Our Story series strives to educate as many people as possible about the towering titans of the past and provide a new set of role models for future generations. By showcasing the achievements of people from all over the world and initiating dialogue and immersive exercises, our goal is to create a more equitable society” (Bio from Our Story website).

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About the Illustrator: “Emanuel Colban is a freelance illustrator from London, England. Emanuel has a BA in illustration from University of Arts London” (Bio from illustrator’s LinkedIn).

Find Emanuel Colban on the following platforms:

“Mansa Musa is the richest person known in history.”

Mansa Musa is an educational nonfiction picture book that delves into the remarkable life and journey of history’s wealthiest individual. The narrative follows Mansa Musa as he embarks on the Hajj pilgrimage, a sacred journey for Muslims who can afford it. Along the way, he commissions various architects and scholars, utilizing his exorbitant wealth to build Mosques and educational institutions in Timbuktu. Through his philanthropic efforts, Mansa Musa establishes a thriving empire that brings countless positive benefits to its people. The book spans Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage from the Mali Empire to Makkah, the holy city of Islamic faith, offering readers a window into a lesser-known chapter of history and encouraging them to contemplate the good deeds they could make possible, if they too were the richest person in history. 

Exploring nonfiction picture books may not be every child’s immediate choice, but Mansa Musa provides a captivating and educational glimpse into a historical narrative often absent from traditional Western curricula. With a glossary, questions for the reader, and even information on how to create an African fabric collage, Mansa Musa is a non-traditional historical read for any child or adult interested in learning about the growth and developments made by one man in West Africa. Mansa Musa is a relatively straightforward narrative for children to follow, enhanced by the abundance of diverse, teachable words that they can look up in the back matter. The art, courtesy of Emanuel Colban, is textured and visually complex in its simplicity, reflecting traditional West African art. With paints of warm, rich hues you will feel transported to the heat of the African desert. While Mansa Musa is explicit with its message and overall themes, it offers children an opportunity to reflect on the capacity for goodness that comes with wealth and power as well as what good they might do if they had those same resources. Though this story did not revolutionize the art of nonfiction picture book writing, it served as an opportunity to learn more about a subject I knew very little about and give representation to an often overlooked, historically rich part of the world. 

Jenica Delaney, Pine Reads Review Writer