Se7en + 1 of our Favorite Picture Books from South Africa – And a GiveAway…

It is not often that one post leads to another so naturally and so quickly…but when Rikki commented on the previous spot I knew she had asked about a post I had wanted to write for the longest time. The questions was: If you could choose one book for a child who doesn’t live in South Africa to read about South Africa, what book would it be? When we began homeschooling there were not so many South African stories that I could read to my children knowing that they were learning about their country and their roots… but I have to say this has all changed and where the local story tellers used to be “three sad looking books” on a shelf in the book store they now require wall space… and often these are the books my children are drawn to first. Books that resonate with their life experience, books that celebrate the world that they live in. Books where they can relate to the dusty road the children walk along, and the sun always shining down on them. Stories that echo with the clatter of city life and taxi ranks in South Africa and the quiet of the peace of the great open plains. All I can say is HOORAY for children’s authors in our country that are bringing our kids reality to life in great picture books – they really are doing a great job.


I have written before about books that are useful for teaching kids about South Africa, and books that we have used for school. Also, in our Big Book Bonanza I suggest South African Chapter books in section 9… scroll down and you will find them!!! This post is about picture books – because really those first stories we hear are often our favorites and we carry them through our lives as special first memories…

Here you go: Se7en + 1 of our Favorite Picture Books all about life in South Africa:

  1. Goal by Mina Javaherbin:
  2. This is our favorite, favorite South African picture book, it set in a dusty township alley. This book depicts an aspect of South African lives that can be understood universally – soccer, big dreams, bullies and overcoming… you will need tissues every time. A young boy wins a world class soccer ball at school and he and his friends are playing and dreaming of professional soccer one day. The underlying fear, as they look left then right, that the boys sense is a reality for many South African children. But they get caught up in the game and don’t notice the bullies arrive… Will the little guys be able to outsmart the bullies? Oh yes and be so victorious, without anyone getting hurt and with hardly an exchange of words. A very subtle solution to the time-old problem of bullies!!! Yes the children in this book are boys, but it is not a boys only book… all my children love it. Not only that, but all the adults I have shown it to, men and women, have read it with at least a lump in their throats. The artwork in this book is incredible, incredible… the expression in the children’s faces are so striking and help to build up the drama in the story… An amazing book that everyone should read.

  3. Fly Eagle Fly by Niki Daly
  4. Niki Daly is prolific and has written heaps of picture books for kids, but this is by far our favorite. It is the story of a young eagle chick that is discovered by a farmer in a village in Africa, and raised in a chickens nest. When it is time for it to return to the wild of course they cannot get the eagle to fly… The farmer has a friend to help him but the eagle will not fly. Eventually the friend takes the “far from eager farmer” and the eagle up the mountain where the eagle feels the powerful up drafts of the wind, he is swept into the sky and finds his freedom… never to return to captivity.

    Niki Daly has written and illustrated heaps of books but his Jamela series are our favorites… Jamela has a new dress, a birthday and all sorts of wonderful stories about a typical little township girl. Actually a typical little girl anywhere, she loves pretty things and has the built in curiosity little people everywhere!!! In this picture book Jamela is given the chicken to feed and prepare for Christmas dinner, as the weeks draw closer so Jamela gets more disturbed and finally for Christmas dinner they eat anything other than the chicken in arms!!!

  5. Makelwane and the Crocodile by Maria Hendriks.
  6. This book so appeals to my children… it has a rhythm and roll to it that just smacks of Africa. It is the story of the day in the life of a funky little African girl, Mkelwane. She lives in a rural village and does typical chores, gathering water, grinding maize, and doing the laundry. And as in all good stories that needs to be resolved!!! There is a problematic crocodile standing between her and her daily routine. Not to spoil the story but she overcomes, of course, with use of the bow of her musical instrument!!!

  7. The Bester Sisters Nguni Range:
  8. Anything by the Bester sisters is fantastic. THe Nguni is a breed of cattle found in South Africa. And this story tell the story if an Nguni calf whose mum explains why he is such a cool little calf… the book wanders through all the different types of Nguni cows and describes each one’s special name which is derived from the pattern of spots on their hides.

    Mealies and Beans

    Our favorite book of the sisters is Mealies (Corn) and Beans, and I am sorry I just couldn’t find it on Amazon. It is about two Nguni cousins that want to prepare vegetables for the farmer’s market competition. One wants the best beans and the other wants to grow the best mealies (corn)… and lets just say they don’t exactly work as a team!!! Very fun read but the best thing about this book is that it shows you how to make a ditch garden. A ditch garden is when you dig a ditch about the size of a door and fill it with kitchen compost and then cover it with soil. Then plant your vegetables on top of that… It is very effective for planting well nourished vegetable gardens and is used quite a lot here for sustenance gardening.

  9. A South African Night by Rachel Isadora.
  10. Racehl Isadora has written a number of South African flavor books, but there is something magical about this one. The watercolor paintings draw you into bedtime for a child in Johannesburg and bedtime for the creatures in the Kruger National Park. As the day ends in Johannesburg so the book parallels the end of the day in the Game Park. Then while the little girl is sleeping so the night animals come to life… As the city comes to life again with the dawn, the animals retreat to rest. A very sweet book.

  11. One Child, One Seed… by Kathryn Cave.
  12. This is a counting book with a stunning photographic story attached, it is just lovely… beginning with one seed… two hands… all the way up to ten plates. The story builds up to a feast… It is a gentle story that leads you through village life in South Africa. For your map lovers their is a map and for your chefs their is a recipe for the local dish: Isijingi.

  13. S is for South Africa by Beverly Naidoo.
  14. This book is not so much a story but poetic photographic romp using rhythm and rhyme to showcase South African culture… fun and an interesting read especially for non-South Africans… who may not know what bunny chow is – for instance!!!

    And the Se7en + 1th Book:

  15. Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom abridged by Chris Van Wyk
  16. All of my kids love and adore the story of the life of our national hero. It begins during his childhood where he stick fighting was one of his favorite games – and this one of my boys favorite games as well… He then goes on to school and doesn’t have the right clothes, so he wears his fathers trousers cut off and tied with string!!! This book has beautiful watercolor illustrations and, as you can see this book is packed with interesting little factoids for young fact collectors. The story continues through his life and his time in prison right through until his freedom in 1990 and his presidential election in 1994. It is not just a story, there is a timeline, a glossary and of course a map.

And finally I have two books to give away, little books by local authors that will give you a flavor for life in South Africa. Both of them are great picture books and would make easy readers for a beginner reader as well. Both of them are rich in local flavor facts that have been woven onto the story…

The first book is a true story about a man, called Golden, who makes flowers out of tin cans, which is a very popular street art in South Africa. Anywhere where there are shops or markets or restaurants you will see folk selling street art as well…


And the other book is a fairy tale mixed with lots of little factoids about life in the local river. The lead player is a frog, Mr Foggerty, and the story follows his antics with his river friends. This book is extra special, it is signed by the author with a message for our winner!!!


This GiveAway works in the usual way, comment before the end of this coming Sunday, 26 February 2012, and we will draw and publish the winners next week!

If you would like a second chance to win I would love you to tweet our message out that we are busy building a library for Lesotho, book by book. All you have to do is Click here to Tweet.

Our GiveAways are open to everyone: If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and get commenting!!!

34 Replies to “Se7en + 1 of our Favorite Picture Books from South Africa – And a GiveAway…”

  1. Thanks for the book ideas! I will be reserving some more books from the library!
    Fun that you added a give-away to it!
    I haven’t received the address of the school in Lesotho yet…
    Have a good week.

  2. What a great post! The Bester sisters, in particular, are new to me. I’ll have to see if I can find anything by them over here.

  3. Willemijn… The address is coming later today… You will get an email and I will blog more about it tomorrow. Have a good day!!!

  4. The books are fabulous. I have seven and eight year old boys and they would love some of these books…. not to mention the mother!!!!

  5. Thank you for the book suggestions! Great post. We will be reading as many of these books as we can get our hands on!

  6. Great to help Anne, This is just the tip if the creative ice-berg… suddenly there are tons of South African books for kids out!!! Hope you have a great weekend!!!

  7. Hay Corli!!! Good to hear from you… So many great South African books out – wonderful!!! We so thought of you today – we went hiking and the smell of the veld and the wide open skies made me think of you guys!!! Hope you guys have a fun weekend!!!

  8. Your mission trip to the school in Lesotho and the pictures of the hearts there have left me in life of prayer for those people. How exciting to hear that a library awaits their patience. God blesses those in need in mysterious ways and I am am ever so grateful. May the books provided be full of inspiration and hope!!!! Love across the seas to the se7en tribe…. smiles

  9. Hi Amy, I am so thrilled to hear how inspired you have been, it is just wonderful to hear… Thank you so much on their behalf!!!

  10. Abigail you are the third person today to ask me a teen related question!!! I had better get onto it!!! Thank you so much for stopping by!!! And look out for some teen posts in a couple of weeks!!! Have a great day!!!

  11. Thanks so much for sharing these book recommendations! I love Goal!, and Niki Daly’s books are great. (I wrestled with whether to include Goal on my first Africa-themed booklist. Might have made the wrong call by not including it.) Books 3 & 4 are new to me, and it’s great to hear your perspective on all of the books.

  12. Glad you found it useful Amy!!! Goal is just one of those awesome books that crosses borders and age groups and well everything… it talks to the heart!!! Hope you enjoy your world tour…

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