Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2
by John Steptoe - A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others. Spanish Version Attached.

Fairy tales are great stories for helping students work out complicated moral issues in a make-believe context. The Cinderella story has a universal theme of an under-appreciated, kind, and honest child who finally gets what she deserves. Found in countries all around the world, the same story plays out in different contexts. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is a Cinderella story from Africa in which kindness, generosity, honesty, and love are rewarded and selfishness is punished. A related lesson in the story is found in how the kind daughter responds to the teasing and abuse from her cruel sister.

Before Reading

ASK: Is it important to be kind even if no one knows it was you who did the kind act? Discuss/think of some kind acts that could be done without letting others know you did them. Why would you want to keep it a secret?

SHOW: The front and back covers of the book and talk about where and when this story might take place. How does it look different from your area? Encourage predictions and creative observations.

CONNECT: We are going to read a story about two beautiful daughters one of whom may marry a king if she is worthy. I wonder what a king would be looking for? How can he be sure he picks the right one?.

During Reading

ASK: Stop several times to ask the student to predict what might happen next. Ask him or her to describe each sister.

SHOW: Discuss the artwork and notice the different types of wildlife that are seen on each page. “In what ways does the environment in the book look different from your own area?”

CONNECT: No one can see the selfish and selfless acts of the daughters in the woods. Why does each one act the way she does?

After Reading

ASK: When do you think the king decided that Nyasha was the one to become queen?

SHOW: Nyasha entered the chamber even though her sister warned her there was a monster inside. Look at her face and hands when she sees the snake. What can you tell about Nyasha from this picture?

CONNECT: Notice all the people watching the new queen on the last page. Why would the king want to make sure his country’s future queen was not selfish?


  1. Discuss and make a list of some ways that you can show kindness to people you live with, friends, and strangers.
    • Are the acts of kindness the same for each group of people?
    • Be sure to think of small acts of kindness as well as a bigger act that may involve some time and giving up an opportunity for yourself.
    • Make a plan to do some of the things on your list.
    • After some time, come back to talk about the list again. Did you do some of the things you planned? How did you feel? How did the people you were kind to react?
    • Can you add some ideas to your list?
  2. How did Nyasha respond when her sister was unkind to her? Think of a time when someone was unkind to you. How did you respond? How do you wish you had responded? What would you like to try next time?
  3. Draw a picture or diagram showing the sequence of the trials that both girls encountered on their journeys. Analyze how each girl responded to each trial. Think of words to describe each action, such as proud, generous, and afraid.
  4. Spend some time looking at maps of Africa. Read the names of the countries and talk about different regions and their climates and wildlife. Find Zimbabwe and South Africa.
  5. Compare this story to the classic fairy tale Cinderella. How is this story like Cinderella and how is it different? Make a chart showing the comparisons.
  6. Use paints or markers to copy a flower or animal from the story. Talk about what medium the artist may have used to create the pictures.
  7. What does it mean to get what you deserve? Did the sisters get what they deserved? Was it fair that Nyasha became queen? Was it fair that Manyara became a servant in her household? Do you think this idea is real? Do you feel that you get what you deserve? Do you treat people the way you want to be treated or do you treat them the way they treat you? What is the best policy?


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