We both have several books about, set in, or written by authors from South Africa. From the children's version of Nelson Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom" to the classic "Journey to Jo-Burg" by Beverly Naidoo, Toby has realised for a long time that this is a complex country. Some of the reviews we have carried together here are therefore a bit older :)
Toby: Journey to Jo'Burg, by Beverly Naidoo (read when Toby was 6)
We bought this book when Nelson Mandela died, but it took us a while to read it. I didn't like how people weren't all treated the same, because that isn't right. Naledi and Tiro were very brave to go travelling all by themselves.
Toby: The Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela (written when he was 6)
I wrote a letter to Nelson Mandela when he was sick, because I wanted to thank him for making the world a better place. I had several non-fiction books about him, but after he died, this book came out, which is all about his life. I liked reading about his childhood.
Toby: Operation Rhino, by Lauren St John
I think you should read the rest of the series before this one, because there are lots of references to the other books in this one. Lauren St John was born in Zimbabwe, but because the book takes place in South Africa, we are putting it here, and we have another book by another Zimbabwean author for Zimbabwe, too.
'Race you to the bottom of the hill,' said Ben, reining in Shiloh, his new pony. 'Last one there washes the dishes after breakfast.'
Ben and Martine are best friends, and always love to race. However, Martine is not riding a pony, she is riding a white giraffe, who got saved in a previous book. Martine used to live in England, but her parents died in a fire, and Martine came to live with Ben and his family in South Africa. In this book, Martine and Ben go on a rhino-saving adventure. It all starts on the Stars and Stripes Safari. Martine's favourite band are there, as well as some hunters and some surfers. The hunters say they have hunted bears in Romania, but that they don't want to kill any African animals. Right at the end of the tour, Martine shows Jayden, the leader of her favourite band, the hidden spot of where the rhinos are, a mother and a child. But she doesn't know what's about to happen.
A few days later.
BANG! Martine wakes up in the middle of the night and runs downstairs. There is a big helicopter, and in it, she sees the shadow of a man with a gun. One of the rhinos has been hit. It was the mother! Martine and Ben need to take the baby to another reserve!
I liked this book because it is very action-packed, and when you read it, you get a very good picture of what is happening. It was very enjoyable to read, and probably in the age range of 7-15. This isn't just an adventure book, it's a bit of a magic book, too. Martine has healing powers, and my favourite part of this book was right at the end - you'll have to read it to find out.
Sabine: The Cry of Winnie Mandela, by Njabulo Ndebele
I was a teenager when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and, like many others of my generation, I read the books that were popular in that era - I read Donald Woods' "Biko" and John Briley's "Cry Freedom" (though I never watched the film), and Winnie Mandela's "Part of my Soul". Around the same time, I also read another book, Doris Lessing's "Desdemona, if only you had spoken". Out of all books, this one stayed with me the most, even though it isn't (at first glance) related to the topic here. Doris Lessing gave voice to female characters - both in history and in literature - allowing them long monologues where they had a chance to explain themselves, to flesh out their characters, to be "more". I always thought they were the perfect monologues - innovative, fairly unknown, and interesting. Ndebele's book reminds me of this. Four women, at first disconnected from each other, are waiting. For various reasons, they are finding themselves without a husband - one went away to study, one went away to work, one died, one went into exile - all legitimate reasons, but as months drag into years, the women experience a kind of limbo. Society has certain expectations, and they are trapped in their existence, no matter what they do. When they meet (it is not described how, nor does it matter, there is a "meta" quality to this book, where the characters themselves seem aware of their imaginary existence), they decide to play a game, each looking to address Winnie Mandela, a waiting woman like they are, but waiting much more publicly. They ask questions, they draw out things they have heard, seen and read, and they engage with their own experiences in relation to Winnie's, inviting her to join their circle. When she does, she becomes one of them - questioning, searching, reflecting, acknowledging.
I found this book utterly fascinating - like the monologues composed by Doris Lessing, here are women who are given a voice to express themselves. But of course, it is their imagined voices, imagined by authors who have a way with words (at the time of the publication of the book, Ndebele was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town), and who can make us listen. This book reminds me of people whose stories need to be told, and consider the complexities of who might have the right, the ability, and the connections to tell those stories.
My name is Toby, and I am 10 years old. I have written letters to every country in the world - you can read about that adventure at my other website, Writing to the World. Some letters are published in a book called "Dear World, How Are You?". In order to learn more about the countries I am writing to, I am reading books, and I am reviewing them here. I also review books for LoveReading4Kids, and those reviews are on here, too. I am trying to find one book set in each country, or by an author from that country. My Mum is doing the same for grown-up books, and I am reviewing mine, and she is reviewing hers. So whether you are a child or a grown-up, you can explore the world with us :)