In the homeschooling series I have been writing this year… I wrote a post on teaching South African culture to South African children, as part of their homeschooling education.

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The big question that arose from that post was: Where are the story and chapter books for South African children… we live in a very diverse culture and representation matters. Children need stories that they can relate to, and good stories. Really, the easiest way to discover a new culture is through stories, and I am so grateful that more and more fantastic South African stories, are hitting the store shelves almost daily.

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And this book, Small Mercies by Bridget Krone, is going to be one of our first read alouds of the year. I read it recently and I loved it… I wrote a review of it in this post here. This is the story of eleven year old Mercy. Mercy lives with her two very eccentric aunts in the poorer side of town, which happens to be modern day Pietermaritzberg… This is a delightful story (and spoiler alert… all’s well that ends well)… this story describes life in a typically South African multicultural context


When the Ground is hard, by Malla Nunn is a gritty teen read and excellent. Definitely one of my favourite reads of 2019… I consider it essential high school reading for my kids. and I have reviewed it fully at this link. This is a book that is very close to the reality of life for many kids in Southern Africa. This is a story of racism, written in the local context, not strictly Black vs. White at all… but shades of culture, shades of colour… how children perceive themselves and where they fit into the scheme of our social structure. The book is set at a boarding school in Swaziland, where the most important children in the school live with both their parents and pay their school fees… these kids get the best of everything, the best dormitories, first dibs at the morning shower and very importantly, more food, than the children whose parents are perhaps migrant labourers, or who can’t pay their fees. The main protagonist in the book is Adele, she lives with her mother and brother, and they are the “secret second family” of a relatively wealthy businessman in Johannesburg…


These are high school/young adult reads, lively fun, sweet love… Alex on the Edge: Where was this book so many years ago when I was a teen and trying to navigate the “social-ins” and “social-outs” of youth group on a Friday night. I love that this book is set in South Africa, it feels like a trip down memory lane… very much living my high school culture… You can read the rest of my review here. Teacher, Teacher is the story of day to day life of two teachers, Jack a biology teacher and Amy an English teacher, who work at a school in Cape Town. On weekends they volunteer at a school in Mitchel’s Plain on the Cape Flats, only to discover that you can’t easily separate your life into neat little categories.


We were lucky enough to interview the author, Kate Le Roux, and you can read about her writing and here favourite books over here.


When we were invited to the Launch of The New Girl Code, I was a little concerned… coding and girls and fashion… I thought it would be a little bit of a “rah, rah, girls can be anything they want to be” kind of a book… Not that I don’t believe that for one second… but I want my girls to believe it because it is true, not because it is being pushed at them. Turns out I was totally wrong… this book is superb and really an excellent read. It is set in Cape Town, and the story of a feisty teenage girl, who is determined to write her own fashion app, at the same time as navigating that tricky time in your life when the teenage brain rules.

For Emerging Readers…

You cannot ignore the impact that Jaco Jacobs has on storytelling in South Africa, easy chapter books for both English and Afrikaans speaking children.
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Our favourite book by Jaco Jacobs, apart from his incredibly funny Afrikaans poetry books, that we have read and re-read for school, has to be: A Good Day for Climbing Trees… This book was a lovely surprise, firstly it is always great to discover someone who writes in the South African context, and with a green/environmental theme. Both of those make this book a winner for us. Manus is a middle child. He has an old brother who is a heartbreaker and school swimming champion and a younger brother, with classic manipulative business skills. It looks like Manus is going to have a long and dull summer holiday, answering to his brothers’ beck and call… until Leila, a neighbour hood gal comes knocking on the door. And together Manus and Leila set out to save a tree in the local park that is doomed to be chopped down by the city council. They stage a sit in…

And Picture Books for Miles…

Local wildlife stories…


More lovely picture books…


The story of Lina, the Duiker and the Dragonfly has to be one of our all time local picture books… just a beautiful mix of the contemporary and cultural world that small children have to navigate in our country.


And of course… se7en+1 of our favourite South African Picture Books…


And finally, in our post called: Se7en of the Best Bazillion Chapter Books – A Book Bonanza!!! In Section 9, you will find a list of classic south African story books and chapter books for children.

We would really like to thank PanMacmillan South Africa, and Penguin Random House South Africa and Jonathan Ball Publishers, as well as Kate Le Roux, who gifted us with copies of these books, for review purposes. This post is not sponsored in any way and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.

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