We absolutely love reading books written from the African context, books that are familiar to the world that we live in. These are just the kind of books that I want my children to read, and in fact, the kind of books that my children really want to read.


Yes, it is lovely to read books from all over the world, but there have been so many brilliant books written for children that are local… and they are so much fun to read… so here we go four beautiful books for children, stories specifically for South African children.

The Gift of the Sun


Written by Dianne Stewart and illustrated by Jude Daly


This is a beautifully illustrated, South African, folktale… and if you are looking to build an African picture book collection, then this is the book to start with.

It is the story of Thulani, a farmer, who likes to bask in the sun all day. Only at the end of the day, when the sun oges down, would he go and milk their cow. He decided milking the cow was too much work, so he replaced the cow with a goat, and then for another reason he exchanges the goat… and so on and so on. All the while, Thulani really wants to make his wife, Dora happy… but his plan is not working.

Until he plants a field of sunflowers, and his luck begins to change. This is a lovely story, the water colour illustrations are perfectly fitting… and if you are wanting to introduce your child to a farm in Africa then this is a delightful way to do that. In fact, this story is so inspiring that it inspired one of my children to create a giant sunflower card…

Gogo’s List


Written by Portia Dery and illustrated by Toby Newsome

Fatima is not just eight, she is eight and half… and ready to take on the world. Her Gogo (granny), who has a very long to do list, is looking for an angel to help her get things done. Fatima is determined to help and even more determined to get things right.

She dashes off with a lot of enthusiasm and refuses all distractions, only to discover… “horror of horrors” that she has lost the very important list. But she soldiers on, she may make a few mistakes and she may even get a little confused, but she knows that without a shadow of doubt that she is doing her best work ever.

As the family sits down for supper, Fatima is so excited to share all the details of her busy day… She is not expecting, in fact no-one is expecting the very surprising butternut soup, and then a few more surprises come to light. All is well that ends well… and the family is able to laugh it off. This is a sweet, heartwarming story and anyone who has been around a young child, who is always eager to help, will enjoy it.



Written by Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali and illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne

We all have hair issues, some more than others. The dedication in this book says it all…
To friendships that provoke learning, unlearning and thinking beyond self. To young black women, who learnt that their hair was a burden and not a crown, we hope this story will lead you to return to the places in your heart where you continue to hide, only to feel unseen. We hope that you find her and feel the memories and hurt so that you may heal and be free.

Wanda has a particular hair problem, she has a wild hair problem and she tries to get to school early every day so that she can “fix her hair” before her teacher sees it. Everyday her mum fixes her hair to look like a beautiful cotton cloud, and tells her “She is a queen and her hair is a crown.” Wanda believes her, until she steps out of the front door, into the world at large…

Where she is teased mercilessly for her wild hair. Her mama has told her that “She is a queen and this is her crown,” but that is very clearly a case of actions speak louder than words. Wanda has to change the wonderful cloud hairdo that her mother creates every morning into something that her teacher calls “neat and tidy.”

What her mother says is just not matching up to the reality she is facing at school, and Wanda is so sad. At the end of the day, before she walks in her front door… she tries to recreate the hairdo that she left home with in the morning, to keep her mum happy. On this particular day, Wanda gets home and her Gogo is there, and together they look through her collection of beautiful hairdos… of famous women, like Brenda Fassie and Diana Ross, Shado Twala and Rihanna… beautiful women, with beautiful hair… just like Wanda’s hair. Together, Wanda and her Gogo create a beautiful hairstyle and at last Wanda feels like the queen that her Mama has told her she is.

What’s Up Thoko


Written and illustrated by Niki Daly

Niki Daly is one of South Africa’s favourite children’s authors and for good reason, his stories are guaranteed to be relatable and heartwarming. The characters tend to be just like someone we all know… somehow he has managed to capture the nuance of children everywhere and particularly South African children. He has featured on our blog before, because of his passion for reading and children’s literature.
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The heroine of this series of easy readers is Thoko, a little girl living with her mum and her granny. Each book has four short stories, each of them are an easy short read for bedtime or an easy chapter for a beginner reader. In the first story, Thoko wants to make some lovely warm soup for her Mama, who has gone off to work on wintry day. Thoko has some rather unusual ideas for what ingredients should go into soup, and luckily Gogo is there to rescue the soup, except when she looks away… one unusual and very special ingredient goes into the pot!

In the next story, Thoko is surprised by an incredibly strange noise in the middle of the night on a wild and stormy night. She climbs into bed with her Mama, only to discover that the noise keeps them both awake now… so they go and climb into Gogo’s bed and believe it or not, that is where they discover the source of the noise!

In the third story, Thoko’s life skills class at school, all the children have been encouraged to grow a little garden… all sorts if seeds and all sorts of gardens. Thoko looks after her beans very carefully and they grow beautifully, of course something surprising happens and when her classmates bring tomatoes, radishes and such like to show-and-tell. Thoko brings something that she has grown in her garden, but not quite what her classmates were expecting.

In the last story Thoko goes on holiday with Gogo, to visit her Aunty in Kleinmond. And very similarly to our family holidays… the friend the car they went in broke down on the way, and at the end of the week they caught a taxi and train and even a donkey cart home. These are all heart waring stories… and the most appealing part of them is that we can all relate to them.

Where to Find These Books

These books are available from Jacana Publishers for our local readers and on Amazon for our international followers. The images below are Amazon affiliate links, which means that our blog earns a small fraction of the price of the book, at no extra cost to the purchaser, when you buy a book through that link.

Thank you so much to Jacana Media for copies of these books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions expressed are entirely our own.

One Reply to “Picture Books We Have Been Reading from Jacana Publishers Lately…”

  1. Oh my word!! I need these books! My K would be thrilled to see characters that look like her in print. Oh and yes Fatima is 8 and half! There is a very big difference between 8 and 8.5 🙂 🙂 🙂

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