Se7en Meets Up With a Fabulous Author/Illustrator Team at Kirstenbosch Gardens… A GiveAway…

Over the winter school break here, we kept blogging about all the greatness that is Kirstenbosch during the winter season… and their fabulous events for children. They had a series of meet the author/illustrator book readings and we are bringing you one that we think our readers are going to love. Not only are we going to show you their books but we are going to tell you a bit of the back story… since we were lucky enough to chat with them. And to top it all… we have a GiveAway. Let’s meet the author, Lindsay Norman and illustrator, Isak Vollgraaff.


Story time at Kirstenbosch on a wild and rainy day turns out to be a colourful thing… dozens of chairs at the ready and children rolling into the bookshop, that is a heartwarming place to be whatever the weather.


Children gathered around and stories were read… and again, as one does!!!


Followed by a drawing lesson…


Let’s Meet the Books

These books are written about real children in a real place, they are set in a village in Zimbabwe and the context and drawings reminded me so much of my travels through Africa that it felt a bit like it is time for another adventure… in the meantime it was very relatable for my children to see homes and families like the ones they have visited in their travels. One of the best features of these books is that there isn’t just a “fact page” at the end of the story, but there are several pages of photographs and short facts at the end of the story. These stories are based on true encounters that the author has had on her travels to and from this village and the photographs bring that reality to the hearts of their young readers. Our kids loved these pages, they totally made the stories real for them.

The Elephants are Coming by Lindsay Norman and Isak Vollgraaff: In this story we are introduced to Themba and his family. Themba is ten and feels that he is quite old enough to go with the men folk of the village to chase off the elephants that are coming to eat the village crops in the night. Poor Themba is desperate to be big, and he begs and begs… but no, he has to stay home and look after Grandma and the rest of the family. While Themba is sleeping he dreams he hears the elephants coming, of course it isn’t a dream at all and Themba has to save the day…

Aunt Alice and the Lion by Lindsay Norman and illustrated by Izak Vollgraaff: Aunt Alice is visiting Themba and his family, she needs a break from city life and is coming to rest in the countryside. When the children go down to the station to meet Aunt Alice, she is no where to be found, until they realise that she is up the tree and hiding from a lion. Of course the children don’t see the lion. Throughout the story, Aunt Alice has a number of “close encounters.” There are a number of very funny and close encounters, but never any sign of the lion. In fact, Spoiler alert… Aunt Alice snores, it couldn’t possibly be a lion roaring!!! This book is funny and charming and there is a lovely little twist in the tale, turns out Aunt Alice isn’t quite as crazy as everyone thinks she is.

Let’s Meet the Author/Illustrator Team


By way of introduction, Lindsay Norman has an interesting story to tell… and one that will resonate with our readers. Just as our annual “Build a Library Book by Book Project” began for us with a trip to a rural school in Lesotho, so she has a literacy project in the heart of Africa. Lindsay Norman is a founding member of the Hwange Schools Project, which is a literacy outreach project to rural children in the region south of the Hwange National Park in South Western Zimbabwe. The goal of the project is to promote literacy for the students, by providing box libraries, teaching resources, and teacher training. She and her team also visit the schools for writing workshops, and have writing competitions for the students. They are doing a great outreach there and you can read more about her project here.

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Se7en + 1 Questions for Lindsay Norman

  1. Did she always now she would be a writer? Yes, she has been writing her whole life. She wrote and illustrated her first book when she was 11, and was mortified when her teacher read it to the class.
  2. Does She have favourite childhood books? She was a prolific reader and loved the classics like The Secret Garden, Noel Streetfield, and Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery.
  3. What About a Local Children’s Author? She recommends Helen Brain, who has just written Jamie and the Magic Whistle and Jamie and the Horse Show, which sound really funny.
  4. Does she have a message for South African Readers? South African books tend to be put in a corner at book shops, but we have a wealth of talent here. When you go shopping for books make sure you don’t overlook local books… take a look at the local books on offer, you will be pleasantly surprised.
  5. Does she have a message for Overseas Readers? Don’t overlook stories that are emerging from Africa, they tend to be exotic and different to your typical fair. Wonderful wildlife adds to the appeal of children everywhere. Also, South African authors tend to have a quirky, different sense of humour.
  6. Does she have any advice for young writers? Write about what you know, that way the words will flow. You can’t force stories, her stories just popped up out of events that had happened in real life. For example, while she was visiting in Zimbabwe there was great excitement in the village, when everyone knew the elephants were coming and they would have to protect their crops.
  7. What is her Writing Style? She has a nine to five day job, so when she gets a snippet of inspiration she tends to mull things over while driving home or walking the dogs, and things just pop into her mind. As soon as she gets a chance she takes her ideas and sit on her stoep and types them into her laptop.
  8. And the Se7en + 1th:

  9. Who has been her Inspiration? She and her sisters are really close and her sister has always been her biggest fan and encourager.


Se7en + 1 Questions for Izak Vollgraaff

The first words that he said to me were, “Children need their own stories, even books written by South Africans can be very Euro-Centric.” How very true is that, I am all for books written for children in their own cultural context. Not only does it provide a living book for the child to read, that they can relate to but it helps children from other cultures to visit different cultures and get a much richer view of the world.

  1. Has he always created art? When he was a child, art just wasn’t cool. He did draw for his three sisters, and kept their paper doll collections up to date, but that was about it. They didn’t have any art at school.
  2. Did he Always Want to be an Artist? Actually his father wanted him to be a technician, but when he finished with his compulsory army stint, a friend bought him art materials to create a portfolio and he managed to get into the Technikon on that. After that he had to figure how to pay his fees.
  3. What did he do after Studying? After he had finished his studies his dad sent him on an “Art Tour.” He visited eight countries looking at art all the way.
  4. Was sort of Work did he do? He was an illustrator at the Magazine: Landau Weekblad, now he illustrates children books and has done for the last forty-five years. Now that he is an illustrator he loves his work, he loves the research that he needs to do to create his art and he loves that he gets to travel all over Africa so that he can create authentic art… he likes to look inside peoples homes, and see how they cook and how they carry their water. Research is essential to good illustrating.
  5. What is his work style? I was expecting, organised or chaotic, but his reply was, “Flat out, all the time.” If you are going to be an artist then expect to work hard all the time, 24-7.
  6. Does he have a message for young folk? He doesn’t understand why art is discouraged as a career choice, almost everyone needs artists nowadays… you cannot run a business or design anything without the help of an artist. There is a lot of work in art, it is a valid career. There is real money in art for potential students.
  7. Should Everyone be Encouraged to Draw? Of course, he doesn’t believe that some folk can’t draw, “If you can draw a circle, a square and a triangle, then you can draw anything.”
  8. Who was his biggest encourager as an artist? He didn’t have one… but his biology teacher asked if he could keep his biology book at the end of the school year and he liked that. Also his history teacher gave him a historical map assignment over the holidays… and he loved that, he really enjoyed doing the research that needed to be done to create the map.

And a Wander Through the Magic That is Kirstenbosch

Of course the story reading happened at Kirstenbosch, so we took an amble through the gardens afterwards. It was a slightly rainy day, and someone told my children that Kirstenbsoch was dreadful in the rain… we had to prove them wrong and went looking for some magic…


We were watched as we traveled along watery paths…


Is this not the best climbing tree in the world?


And a tree with toes… just a little bit creepy!!!


And a walk along the boomslang… and for our non-south african friends… “boomslang” means “tree snake.” And a view of a wonderful miniature world…


It is not actually a giant dandelion, it’s an agapanthus… but you can’t help imagining!!!


And secret paths…


And caves in the trees that make you pause and catch your breathe…


Turns out Kirstenbosch is magical whatever the weather… but we knew that already.

The GiveAway

We have a set of books to give to one of our readers somewhere in the world. All you have to do to stand a chance of winning is leave a comment, before the end of play on Saturday 30 July. In the spirit of promoting local book creators, we would love so many of our readers to leave a comment… and stand a chance of winning. If you don’t have small children enter away and gift them on… these books are pure African magic, they need to be shared.

We will draw and publish the winners in the Fabulous Fun Post after the 30 July. I won’t respond to your comments as I do on our other posts because I don’t want to be included in our own giveaway. 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 happy commenting!!!

Previous Kirstenbosch Posts

We would like to thank the author/illustrator team for their time and the publishers Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with the books to review and the books to giveaway. Also, thank you to Hippo Communications for organising free entrance to the Gardens for myself, so that I could attend these events and bring them to our readers. This was not a sponsored post and all opinions are as usual my own.

13 Replies to “Se7en Meets Up With a Fabulous Author/Illustrator Team at Kirstenbosch Gardens… A GiveAway…”

  1. Our 4 grandchildren (6 years to 7 mths) will all be staying with us in Cape Town in September – I would love to share Kirstenbosch and these books with them

  2. Fascinating post – great to discover new-to-me authors and illustrators. I thought Izak’s dad sounded great – sending his son on an art tour – what a generous thing to do, and what an experience and education it no doubt was.

  3. Was wanting to take my daughter to these events but didn’t get there. Maybe next holidays.

  4. As a member of the Zimbabwean Diaspora, I would LOVE to have these books for my kids. They look fabulous, and I completely agree we need more Southern African-flavoured children’s literature.

  5. Ooo, it’s not as if we don’t have enough books already – but these look great and I would love to share them with the international families we do life with here on board. Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. We love books from other parts of the world, and my six year old is currently very focused on Africa. She’d love these!
    (we’re in Canada). 🙂

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