Africa - Land of Story

Föredrag hos Svenska Barnboksinstitutet 2010-09-28

Land of story.
Land of the first storytellers of all. The little people who built stories out of the wind. They held that when a person died, the wind would rise and blow away their footprints, leaving no trace of them upon the earth of Africa.

San storytelling

Come with me. Share a moment when I visited a place called !Khwa ttu near the west coast of South Africa. It is a nature reserve, staffed by people of San/Bushman descent, and it contains a reconstruction of the kind of settlement that existed perhaps three hundred years ago.
They had gathered a number of storytellers who were to share with us stories from their people, stories from the old Oral Tradition. One told his story in English; another spoke in a San dialect together with a translator; one woman told the whole story in her own language.
The sun was sinking, the fire glowed, the smoke swirled in the evening breeze. I shut my eyes for a moment and listened. I felt myself close to one of those “time jump” moments. When I opened my eyes, I might be a thousand years in the past, hearing exactly the same words, with the same expression and hand gestures, behind exactly the same glowing smoky fire.
And above me, the sky could have been glowing red – exactly as it was for those of us privileged to gather by the fire at !Khwa ttu that evening.

Our legacy from the San

If the Cradle of Mankind was indeed in Africa, then it was here in Africa that the first man spoke the first word. Here the first story was told. The beginning of the living oral tradition.
Amongst them were artists who recorded the wildlife with whom they lived so closely. They painted, probably in some form of trance-like dream, the people they were.
A painting is a joining. It joins the shaman to his trance-dream, it joins the animal-people to us. It is a way in which we can speak to them and share their power. [1]
The live word is the more important: it embraces knowledge. But the painted or carved word has its importance too, in capturing a reminder of a memory. Here is the true beginning of literature in Africa.
The San “have probably more understanding of how to live with each other in peace than any other people on earth.” There is so much that we could learn from their peaceful way of life, without competition, without conflict.

There is a need to point out that San/Bushmen are not lost to this planet. There are around 90 000 people still very much alive – in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana – who speak San dialects. I should also point out that I am using the descriptive word ‘San’ although the people themselves dislike both ‘San’ and ‘Bushmen’ as generalisations, preferring to use the names of their own individual dialect or community.
They still have their respected storytellers and artists.
They still make beads and necklaces from ostrich egg shells, as they did thousands of years ago.

The oral tradition in Africa

The oral tradition is not confined to the San in the southern area of the continent. It was – and in places still is – an integral part of the community life of Africa. It must have preceded or accompanied the pyramid builders of Egypt, the kingdoms of Mali and Songai, the stately Masai of Kenya, the small hunters in the Congo jungle. It was certainly part of the dark-skinned warriors who counted their wealth in cattle as they surged south over the veld of central and eastern Africa. These were the Nguni-speaking Africans amongst whom are the Zulu and Xhosa of today.
The oral tradition included the history of the people. Those endless lists of ancestors in the Old Testament must once have been known by heart, for generations before they were actually written down.
It includes correct social behaviour. I remember when I was working with the Boy Scout Association of South Africa on fieldwork in what had once been the Kingdom of Zululand. A local traditional elder told me that he approved of Scouting “because it teaches boys how to be respectful to their parents”.
It includes the quirky spirit of Africa. When those ship-loads of slaves were taken from West Africa, the oral tradition was one of the few things they could take with them. So, in the southern states of America, slaves told stories of the trickster hare who found new life as Brer Rabbit in the Uncle Remus stories. Perhaps one of Africa’s earliest literary exports.
It includes the pride of the family. I was given a lift by an African gentleman and conversation was in short supply. Eventually he said, “How many children do you have?” I answered apologetically, “I am not married.” He heaved a great sigh of sympathy and amazement. Hau! Then, after a pause, he asked, “So – how may children do you have?”

Perhaps it is the vast emptiness of Africa which creates the need to speak more loudly. African storytelling is boisterous, exuberant. The stories of Africa are full of action: boastful, powerful, self-confident; sometimes violent, cunning, cruel. Men and animals are interchangeable. There are giants, snakes, the sun and the moon, beautiful women, powerful leaders, even cannibals. One of the favourite characters is the Trickster. Often portrayed as the Hare, he can also be the Jackal or sometimes the Tortoise. The clever Trickster is nearly always the hero; the simple honest victim is to be laughed at.

Author’s footnote

There should be a footnote at this point: I know a little of the folklore of East and West and Southern Africa, even a little of the stories of the Nile valley where writing was first created in Africa, but I am no expert in these things. Still less am I a professor of sociology or anthropology! So although I have done research on your behalf, most of it has been into children’s books, the books of Africa. So any quotations that I use are from children’s literature itself. And I’m not going to clog the dialogue with all the titles, authors and publishers of these books. You can find all that in the Bibliography of this talk which will be available on my Bookchat website in early October.

The story of story

There are rock engravings and stone buildings, but much of Africa’s heritage was created from perishable materials. Africans recognise this and therefore regard the oral tradition of high importance. It is older than any books and libraries and therefore more valuable.
Storytelling has evolved into a Performance art. Those of you who have seen Gcina Mhlophe retelling stories from Zulu and Xhosa tradition will appreciate that she blends together words, movement, expression, song and dance – and the story has not lost its cultural impact, moral content and sheer entertainment value.
Storytellers even tell stories about stories. West Africa is the land of Kweku Ananse, the spiderman storyteller, who gathered stories in his bag and tried to keep them all to himself. In Zulu tradition, a woman went down to the bottom of the sea to bring back stories for the human world.
For a while Mazanendaba was happy with things the way they were. But presently she realised that something was missing from their lives. You see, there were no stories at that time. People used to sit around the fire after supper, and watch the stars grow to thousands and millions in the night sky. Sometimes they would watch the moon rising, or listen to the wind howling and wonder if it was trying to tell them a little story. But no; they would yawn and yawn, till they fell asleep without even a dream. Can you imagine – the whole world without any stories or dreams! It was terrible. Mothers and grandmothers tried hard to find a story or two for their little ones, but there were none. [2]

Excerpts from African stories

Come with me now and listen to some collected words of wisdom from the fruitfulness of the storytelling of Africa.

From Nigeria:
Once upon a sun and moon, many suns and moons ago, human beings like me could live forever. There was no death in those days, no wrinkles or crinkles or shrivelled old age. [3]

From the San of the West Caprivi strip near Botswana:
The Rain was not afraid of the Elephant. She just smiled and said, “You may be strong, my husband, but I am Rain. I bring water for all the animals when they are thirsty. I water all the plants and trees so that they can grow.” [4]

Also from Botswana:
That night a soft, gentle rain fell. The rain continued to fall the next morning when Motlalepula caught the bus back to the city. The people of the village were very happy and Motlalepula too was happy. She looked at the seeds she had taken from the tree. She knew that she would bring young trees back to the village. She would teach people how to plant and look after the trees like they used to when her grandmother was young, many moons ago. [5]

From Madagascar:
Last night, our ancestors spoke to me in a vision. They revealed that God gave us four important trees for life. He gave us the mango tree for its sweet fruit and plentiful shade. He gave us the kapok tree because we can use the fruit fibres to weave mats to rest and meditate on. He gave us the avocado tree so that we can sell its fruit and make a profit. And finally, God gave us the jackfruit tree as a symbol of friendship. By knocking on the fruit, we can tell if it is ripe by the sound it makes. Therefore the jackfruit is our friend because it can communicate with us. [6]

From Malawi:
This strange story only goes to prove, my children, that when one sets out to choose a mate, one must first make sure that both are of the same nation, and that their tastes and their customs agree. [8]

From Zimbabwe:
At the celebrations the next day, a handsome stranger came by with caskets of gifts for her – of gold, gems, skins and silk. Then he asked for her hand in marriage. “I am a prince,” he said, “who has been trapped in a python’s skin. Only the love and kindness of a great woman could save me – and that is you, dear Princess. Will you marry me so our great tribes can be joined as one?” [9]

From Ethiopia:
The elder brother went to his younger brother and begged his forgiveness.
“Brother, forgive me,” he said. “I’ve been selfish and greedy, and I took all you had without a word of thanks.”
His younger brother embraced him affectionately.
“Of course I forgive you,” he said, “for we are brothers after all.” [10]

From San tradition:
And so it is – the old ones say – that the thousands of little stars that form the Milky Way are really a handful of wood-ash glowing in the dark. For once a young San girl named Xama threw the embers of her fire into the sky to light the way for Gau the hunter, lost out in the desert wastes in the darkness of the night. [11]

Of course the story writer of today is not always a direct part of the old Oral Tradition. But I do believe that all of us, everywhere in Africa, follow in the steps of that tradition. As the storyteller by the smoking fire maintained the old ways and occasionally added a new chapter, so we catch at the social culture of our time and draw out of it lessons for the future.

The white man comes to Africa

Into this land of story came visitors from beyond Africa. They came at first by ship: the Portuguese, Dutch, English on the west coast and towards the south; the Arabs on the east. At first their needs were simple: water, fruit, fresh meat. Then they came in great numbers, in larger ships, in caravans across the desert. They were in search of gold and ivory, salt, exotic skins and feathers, and above all they wanted slaves. The story of Africa had become tragically different.
Traders came and went. Settlers came to stay. They claimed to bring civilisation, but (as Jenny Seed pointed out in her novel of Namaqualand, The Great Thirst [12]) they also brought with them the danger of alcohol and debt. With the settlers came missionaries carrying that most terrible of inventions: the printed book. There is a bitter saying: “They taught us to kneel in prayer. When we shut our eyes, they had the Bible and we had the land. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible and they had the land."
I have heard Professor Es’kia Mphahlele relate in amazement: “They tried to teach us to worship God in silence!” Ridiculous! In the words of the psalm: “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands.”
There was a clash between cultures, clearly evident in the attitude towards story. African folklore from the oral tradition with its tales of talking animals was regarded as childish. So they were retold as “Stories for Children”, frequently changed to suit Christian ethics. The tale of the clever Tortoise who won his race with the Hare by placing his many identical cousins at intervals along the race-track was replaced with a more suitable story of the Hare falling asleep while the Tortoise plods steadily onwards and wins. “Slow and steady wins the race” was a more suitable Christian doctrine than animal craftiness and deception.

The beginning of South African children’s literature

Let’s move on to what may be considered the beginning of South African children’s literature in English. In 1907 a grand dog story was published: Jock of the Bushveld was written by Sir Percy FitzPatrick for his children. It was a reality story, based on the author’s own experiences as a transport-rider accompanying ox-wagons in the Eastern Transvaal. It paints a genuine, if unfortunate, picture of “yelling niggers” and how we (whites) would “not live a day if they didn’t know who was baas.” [13]
Fortunately, there are a number of well-edited versions available today. A university professor once told me that if he read the original Jock of the Bushveld to his students, he would be lucky to escape with his life. The story has been filmed, romantically, several times – and places in the north-east of South Africa carry signboards saying things like “This is where Jock killed the kudu.”
Provided we place such books in their correct historical setting – by which I mean their colonial setting – they are perhaps preferable to many of the other books which had been entertaining young English readers. Such books as Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines which sold over 113 thousand copies, or RM Ballantyne’s The Settler and the Savage, an incredible title! Such books have been described as “the fantasy of a continent and a people that never were and never could be.” They were usually written by authors who had briefly visited Africa or possibly had never been there at all. The idea of Africans writing stories about their own land and its people was even more of a fantasy.
The first genuine voice of old Africa possibly appeared in 1923 with a publication called The Mantis and his Friends. It contained stories dictated originally by San prisoners, working on the breakwater for Cape Town harbour, who were released into the care of Dr Wilhelm Bleek. He, with the help of his sister-in-law Lucy Lloyd, was the first to write down the San/Bushman language. Dr Bleek listened to their stories and gathered the first genuine archives of their beliefs and culture and folklore. His daughter, Dorothea Bleek, edited some of them for publication – obviously accepting the theory of that age that such stories were suitable reading matter for children.

Three children’s books about apartheid times

I’m jumping on now through another forty years. I’m closing in on the South Africa of the 1960s when state oppression and the policy of apartheid was at its height. I do so because I believe it shows how children’s literature can play a part in the changing of the world – and has played a significant part in the changing of Africa,.
Children’s literature in South Africa started in Afrikaans. The quality of writing was good, though constrained by the Calvinistic ethics of their society. Those set in authority (teachers, parents, church or state) were not questioned and never ridiculed. Indeed, humour was almost totally absent from South African children’s literature.
Apartheid, or ‘separate development’ as some people preferred to call it, deliberately kept people apart, and it was there to be challenged. Beverley Naidoo set down a description of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960.
Everything went all right until the police saw the schoolchildren marching, and then the trouble started. The police aimed their guns and began to shoot with real bullets, killing whoever was in the way.
It was terrible. The police shot tear gas too, making everyone’s eyes burn.
People were screaming, bleeding, falling. More police came in great steel tanks, and more in helicopters, firing from above. A little girl, about eight years old, standing near Grace raised her fist, and the next thing she was lying dead.
People became fighting mad, throwing stones at the police, burning down schools and government offices. Smoke and flames were everywhere.
But the police kept shooting, until hundreds were dead. Hundreds were hurt and hundreds were arrested. [14]

Similar scenes happened in Cape Town.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I have to go. It has become clear to me that change cannot be achieved within South Africa. So I must leave this land of my birth, and dedicate myself to its liberation outside its borders.
In any case if I stayed I would merely be arrested again, and detained indefinitely. Some of my friends have been detained without trial for over six months: even small children are being kept in solitary confinement.
So it seems to me I have a more useful part to play outside South Africa. One day I will return to you, when this sad, rich, beautiful country of ours is no longer torn apart by vicious policies based on greed and fear, and then you will be truly, meaningfully proud of me. [15]

Some youth stories were less aggressive and merely gave the atmosphere of living under apartheid. Here, a white girl with a twisted ankle meets a Zulu girl in a park.
“Let’s go and sit down somewhere and maybe have something to eat as well.”
“You know a place we can go?” Becky asked.
Candy’s face slowly reddened into acute embarrassment. For a moment she had completely forgotten. There wasn’t anywhere they could go together. Within three minutes’ walk of where they were sitting there were at least three restaurants or coffee bars. But Becky couldn’t go into them; they were all exclusively for whites. [16]
Later, Becky mimics a conversation with an officious Afrikaner policeman.
“Scuse me baas. I didn’t do nothing baas.”
“You think so, hey? You blerry bliksem. See this book here? What do you think you’re doing with communist literature, hey? You think I’m stupid. You think I don’t know this zebra here is banned under the Immorality Act?”
“But baas, ‘scuse me baas, that zebra’s stripes are Separate Development, baas. They grow separate, baas. They don’t cross the Colour Bar, baas. ‘Scuse me baas.”
“You cheeky blerrie commie. You’re under arrest.”
“No baas … Please baas … Why baas?”
“You’re under arrest for asking why you’re under arrest.” [16]
Some of the books that voiced criticism were actually banned. Others were merely discouraged from being distributed in the Republic of South Africa. Which comes to much the same thing. Those three books were published in Great Britain: Journey to Jo’burg (now celebrating 25 years of publication), The Sound of the Gora and Go Well, Stay Well. But they reached South Africa. Imagine – having to smuggle children’s books around in a plain wrapper!

Understanding through story
It startles me when I have to admit that I was born in the 20th century. As one of my pupils said, “But, Mr Heale – that’s history!” Yet he was right because we are all part of history. And children’s literature is one of the ways in which history is recorded.
The 21st century may well bring mobile phones, computers, the internet to more of Africa. But is access to Google of vast use to people who cannot read? It is clear that literacy must come first, then literature. And I believe that story brings not merely literacy bur also comprehension, understanding, imagination, compassion and peace. It is through story that we can understand how other people think. We can meet the thoughts of people from all over Africa, all over the world. We need more than information – we need understanding.
English-language fiction played a role in preparing future citizens for a multi-cultural society.
“Goodnight child,” she said, and her voice was love. “Goodnight, my child. Sleep now, under the stars.”
Through the opening of the hut I could see them – many, many bright and shining lights scattered over the dark sky of Bushmanland.
I drifted into sleep, and our people were around me like a hum, like bees, soft and warm, and honey scented. [17]
That extract comes from Song of Be by Lesley Beake. I tell you that because I know that it is available in a Swedish translation.

An eight-year-old boy in 1986 (who must now be 32 years old) wrote:
“When I am old, I would like to have a wife and two children, a boy and a girl, and a big house and two dogs and freedom. My friends and I would like to meet together and talk.” [18]

The release of Mandela and the arrival of democracy
The world of story prepared us for the coming of freedom in South Africa, and for many this started when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after twenty-seven years. In his words, it had been a Long Walk to Freedom.
“Amandla! Viva! Long Live!”
The noise rushed past me like a great storm of joy. It rushed past me and up and out into the great blue sky, and my heart flew with it. It joined with all the other voices and hearts on the whole Grand Parade, and it was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
When Mr Mandela spoke every ear listened. He told us that it was true. We could really believe it. We were free!
In that moment it seemed like we were one voice and one heart at last. [19]

“We welcome you with happiness.
We embrace you with pride.”
Those words came from the Secretary-General of the United Nations during the Inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in May 1994. Our whole country shared that happiness and pride. The tribute followed our first ever democratic election in April, when endless queues of people stood in friendly patience to vote. Vulture journalists gathered to record the violence or the civil war. There wasn’t any. Peacefully, incredibly, South Africa became a democracy. [20]
This was later recorded in poetry:

Makhulu, tired with legs grown old,
morning was hot now evening cold,
the queue is long, like nothing before,
“I’ve waited long. I can wait some more.”

Makhulu, like a bright young bride,
life before her, life at her side,
crosses her ballot, hears freedom roar,
“I’ve waited long, but I’ll wait no more.” [21]

I’ m quoting now from the picture book version of Long Walk to Freedom, using the words of Nelson Mandela – not because he comes from South Africa, but because he is essentially of Africa and one of the most inspiring Africans of our time.
“But a new journey has now begun – a journey to build a new South Africa. We must join hands and say we are one country, one nation, one people, marching together into the future. A future in which people of all colours will learn to live in peace.” [22]
Recent African children’s books
Sixteen years ago. Come with me into the present. Our storytellers can now write about anything – happy stories of African children as heroes in their own books, football, animals, dreams, the power of imagination. They also continue to write about the reality that is Africa.
I feel another bout of honesty coming upon me. I am not setting out tonight to portray the problems of book production and distribution all over Africa – desperate and depressing though they are. That would be unwise. I am not a marketing manager. I am not in the commercial world at all. I am an enthusiast for, and a believer in, the power of children’s literature. What those books say is what concerns me.
Equally, I can speak – with apology – only of the new books coming out of South Africa. I do not see the books of East and West Africa, still less the ones from French-speaking or Muslim countries.
I take it for granted that such troubles as AIDS, poverty, unemployment, drought, and the desire to live a free bouncing bounding life are common to all the young people of Africa. Authors tend to be honest people. The best ones write about reality.
I know of only one story book portraying a political leader from those past years. It is called Kobie and the Military Road, written in 1987 by Peter Younghusband [23], in which a boy on crutches goes to visit the State President in an effort to save a bird sanctuary. Before he is confronted by the intimidating President PW Botha, he is befriended by the President’s wife who states firmly, “You can shake your finger … at the ANC and at Chief Buthelezi. But you can’t shake your finger at me!” The book was never recommended for approved reading in schools. One wonders why?
But we are producing impressive books on such vital topics as global warming, the truth about AIDS, endangered wildlife, poverty, and the continuing background of crime and gang warfare.

Several years ago, the Cape Times newspaper published – as an April Fools Day joke – a map showing Table Mountain as an island, following the predicted rising of water levels due to global warming. Lesley Beake used the same set of circumstances, though not as a joke, in her book Remembering Green. [24] She envisaged a community of Tekkies who lived on Table Mountain, barricaded from the outside world. A girl who can remember the green land of Africa where she was born is a prisoner – and so is a young lion. There is still hope for the future – and we wait eagerly for the sequel.
One of the worst things about the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the stigma that goes with it. Adults will not admit that the disease exists in their moral society – as portrayed in Jenny Robson’s Praise Song [25] where a death is treated as a murder. Children will not make friends with other children who may be AIDS infected – as the ELRU team shows in their picture book Am I a Lion that Eats People? [26]
There are many books about endangered wildlife. They range from factual books such as My First Book of Southern African Birds from Struik Nature [27], part of a series of multi-lingual books including mammals, insects, snakes, etc. As well as more emotive picture books like the ones published privately by Lulu and Tee of which the latest is Nicole in The Surf is my Turf, [28] about a shark which needs to be admired as well as respected at a distance.
In Home Now, Lesley Beake created a picture-book story of two lonely beings. [29] It shares the tale of Sieta, a sad girl who thinks back to her previous home over the mountains when her parents were alive. They died of AIDS, though this is only mentioned in an explanatory Afterword. Also lonely is a young orphaned elephant. Text and glowing pictures tell how they become friends and both find a new “Home Now”.
Poverty is an underlying theme in many children’s books of Africa, however much the illustrator dresses the children in bright colours and gives them happy smiling faces. For me, one of the most effective has been The Best Meal Ever [30] in which Sindiwe Magona tells a tale of hunger. Siziwe is looking after her four younger brothers and sisters in Guguletu, with both parents away. There is no food in the house – nothing. In desperation she heats up a pot of water, and adds salt and pepper, stirring and stirring until the younger ones gradually fall asleep as they wait. Then Siziwe falls to her knees and prays: “Thank you, Father in Heaven, for the gift of hope. This was the best meal ever! But, Lord, can you send us a different one, tomorrow?” And then – because the hopes and prayers of children need to be answered – a knock on the door. There is their kind and generous neighbour, back from holiday, with food and money. This is the extended family of Africa.
Michael Williams writes bluntly about such unpleasant happenings as the murder of young children for body parts used in traditional magic, the desperate financial situation in Zimbabwe and the increasing tendency towards xenophobia. His main plots are more predictable: the mysterious death of a schoolboy rugby player in The Eighth Man or the desire to become involved with the 2010 World Cup in The Billion Dollar Soccer Ball [31]. But there are dark shadows in the background.
Peace on earth! What message more needed from our children’s literature? In Let There Be Peace [32], there is an inspiring collection of prayers from all over the world. I have chosen part of a traditional prayer from Africa.

The world was not left to us by our parents.
It was lent to us by our children.


Story is language that makes sense, words that fit together and catch the interest and the imagination.
Story books carry the same understanding, the same excitement, allowing each reader to do his or her own thinking.
Africa is where story began. Africa may be the cradle of the future.


[1] The Joining – Peter Slingsby (Tafelberg 1996; Baardskeerder cc 2009)
[2] Stories of Africa – Gcina Mhlophe (University of Natal Press 2003)
[3] West African Trickster Tales – retold by Martin Bennett (Oxford University Press 1994)
[4] San Tales from Africa – Raffaella Delle Donne (Struik 2007)
[5] Tales from Africa – compiled by Mary Medlicott (Kingfisher 1995)
[6] Madagascar Program – story by Chief Bakary (World Wide Fund for Nature)
[8] Fireside Tales of the Hare and his Friends – Phyllis Savory (Howard Timmins 1965)
[9] Stories Gogo Told Me – Lisa Grainger (Penguin Books 2007)
[10] When the World Began, Stories collected in Ethiopia – Elizabeth Laird (Oxford University Press 2000)
[11] The Wood-Ash Stars – Marguerite Poland (David Philip 1983)
[12] The Great Thirst – Jenny Seed (Hamish Hamilton 1971)
[13] Jock of the Bushveld – Sir Percy FitzPatrick (Longmans, Green & Co 1907)
[14] Journey to Jo’burg – Beverley Naidoo (Longman Group 1985)
[15] The Sound of the Gora – Ann Harries (Heinemann 1980)
[16] Go Well, Stay Well – Toeckey Jones (The Bodley Head 1979)
[17] Song of Be – Lesley Beake (Maskew Miller Longman 1991)
[18] Two Dogs and Freedom – Children of the Townships Speak Out (Ravan Press / The Open School 1986)
[19] Jakey – Lesley Beake (Tafelberg 1997)
[20] Adamastor, A view over the children’s literature of South Africa – Jay Heale (Bookchat Booklets 2004)
[21] Saturday in Africa – Patricia Schonstein Pinnock (African Sun Press 1996)
[22] Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela / abridged by Chris van Wyk, illustrated by Paddy Bouma (Macmillan 2009)
[23] Kobie and the Military Road – Peter Younghusband, illustrated by Angus McBride (Capricorn 1987)
[24] Remembering Green – Lesley Beake (Frances Lincoln 2009)
[25] Praise Song – Jenny Robson (Tafelberg 2007)
[26] Am I a Lion that Eats People? – The ELRU team with Reviva Schermbrucker (ELRU 2004)
[27] My First Book of Southern African Birds – Peter Apps, illustrated by Jennifer Schaum (Struik Nature 2006)
[28] Nicole in The Surf is my Turf – Lulu & Tee (Linda Fellowes & Save Our Seas Foundation 2010)
[29] Home Now – Lesley Beake, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Frances Lincoln 2006)
[30] The Best Meal Ever – Sindiwe Magona, illustrated by Paddy Bouma (Tafelberg 2006)
[31] The Billion Dollar Soccer Ball – Michael Williams (Maskew Miller Longman 2009)
[32] Let There Be Peace, Prayers from around the World – selected by Jeremy Brooks, illustrated by Jude Daly (Songololo 2009)

Rock art pictures supplied by Peter Slingsby and Brian Mitchell.
San activities and characters courtesy of Lesley Beake and the Kalahari Peoples Network at
Special photographic artwork courtesy of Craig Foster.
Sharpeville artwork by Paddy Bouma, from Long Walk to Freedom (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Pictures of children from Somerset House School.
Cover pictures (mostly) from the publishers concerned.

JAY HEALE was born in England and educated at Oxford (M.A.) and Cape Town (H.D.E. with Distinction). He taught for 26 years at schools in England and South Africa, most of them multi-cultural. He was the founder and editor of Bookchat magazine (1976-1997), now succeeded by a similar website,, which researches and reviews the best of South African children’s literature.
Jay served for four years on the Jury of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, after which he was twice elected (2000, 2002) as President of that Jury. He was the Organiser of the 29th International IBBY Congress in Cape Town 2004. As one of its founder members, Jay was elected to Honorary Life Membership of IBBY South Africa (previously the South African Children’s Book Forum).
He has written over 30 books for young readers, fiction and non-fiction, as well as books for teachers, librarians and parents. He was a contributor to the International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature (Routledge 1996), the Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books in English (Cambridge University Press 2001) and to Världens Barnboksförfattare by Britt Isaksson & Sven Hallonsten (BTJ Förlag 2008).