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Monday, June 12, 2017


A heart-warming story which was loved by the two little boys I read it to. (Review by Bev Millar)

The Elders at the Door is an interesting children’s book based on an African fable that is told across the continent and is the work of sisters Maryanne and Shayle Bester.

The story is about a family getting ready to start the day, when there is a knock on the door. The mother looks out the window and sees three elders, Blessing, Wisdom and Love. Her husband says the family must invite them in, even though they are dirty and hungry. When the mother asks them to come in and eat with the family, they say that they cannot enter together and the family must choose which one can enter. The story then unfolds as the family discusses the merits of each elder and why they should be allowed into the home.

Obviously, they choose love, which is the wise choice as where there is love, blessings and wisdom follow.

The story is written by Maryanne Bester and beautifully illustrated by her sister Shayle. The characters in the story are all African animals. The family are goats, while Blessing is a donkey, Wisdom an owl and Love is a hippopotamus. Everyone is dressed in bright, colourful, African print clothing. Shayle Bester also includes detail in each drawing, such as familiar household objects, which will help encourage a child’s vocabulary.

The Bester sisters grew up on a cattle and sheep farm in the Free State and graduated from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg. They now run a company as decorative painters and illustrators specialising in children’s art. Other books by the sisters include Why Dog is Afraid of Storms, I Know That!, The Long Trousers, The Missing Ball and Mealies and Beans. They won the Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award for The Cool Nguni and the Sappi Isiqalo Book Competition run by Centre for the Book for Three Friends and a Taxi.

My only concern with the story is that young children take what they hear literally. So, is it a good idea in these troubled times to encourage them to invite strangers into their home? Maybe the situation could lead to a discussion with the children about who should be allowed into their homes.

Apart from that, it is a heart-warming story which was loved by the two little boys I read it to. I would recommend it for children up to six years old.

The Elders at the Door is written by Maryanne Bester and illustrated by Shayle Bester, published by Jacana Media. ISBN number 978-1-4314-2273-9. Recommended retail price R95.

The Elders at the Door is also available in Afrikaans -  978-1-4314-2529-7; IsiXhosa -  978-1-4314-2530-3, and IsiZulu – 978-1-4314-2531-0 – Bev Millar