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Sunday, June 28, 2015


Fascinating collection of stories with lively illustrations. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Who is King? is a fascinating book written by Beverley Naidoo and illustrated by Piet Grobler. It features ten stories from across the African continent.

In her foreword, Naidoo makes the intriguing point that if you had a bulldozer large enough to dig up China, India, the USA and half of the countries in Western Europe, you could lay them all out like jigsaw pieces across Africa ... and they would all fit!

She also makes the point that there are more than 2,000 languages spoken across Africa and each story in her book was first told in one of these languages before being translated into English.

 In addition to the South African tales - How Elephant got his Trunk (Venda) and Unanana and One-Tusk (Zulu) - there’s the title story, Who is King?, as well as The Ox and the Donkey from Ethiopia.

Also represented are Morocco with The Miller’s Daughter (Arabic); Nigeria with Tortoise and his Banjo (Igbo); Ghana with Why Monkeys Live in Trees (Ewe); Kenya with Why Hippo has No Hair (Luo), Malawi with Why Cockerel Crows (Chichewa), and Zimbabwe The Mouse Child (Shona).

Beverley Naidoo believes that information and understanding are huge steps towards empathy and recognises an urgent need in all communities to build positive attitudes towards others from a young age. The traditional stories featured in this book offer a fun way of introducing children to South Africa’s shared humanity.

They also resonate on an educational and social level and invariably offer morals, such as how not to turn a friend’s request to your own advantage (The Ox and the Donkey). Or, if you are going to play tricks, make sure there’s a safe escape route (Why Monkeys Live in Trees).

Piet Grobler’s lively illustrations are a delight, each page revealing scenes full of humour and rich in colour. Memorable images are the elephant (Who is King?) tossing the lion in the air to show who’s really boss. There’s vibrant energy in the leopards’ wives dancing (Tortoise and his Banjo) and amusement in the monkey’s frantic flight to lofty safety in Why Monkeys Live in Trees

Who is King is published in soft cover in English, Sesotho, isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans by Jacana and The Little Hands Trust. EAN: 9781431421381 – Caroline Smart