From urban roosters to warrior kings

City rooster, by Claudia Eiker-Harris

City rooster, by Claudia Eiker-Harris

Read to me: City Rooster
(Also available in Afrikaans as Die Eerste Stad-Shaan) by Claudia Eicker-Harris, illustrated by Juan Carlos Federico, published by Penguin Random House

When the city begins to intrude on the farm Mr Doodle, the rooster, decides it’s time to move on. But who will wake the family if he leaves? In an attempt to find his replacement he holds auditions. Applicants turn up in their flocks — loeries and owls, barbets, cuckoos and finches — but none of them succeeds in waking the farmer and his family effectively. And then comes Harriet the hadeda.
And everybody who lives in the city knows who got the role. This vividly illustrated offering is a great way to introduce small children to a variety of birds.

Tweens: Jamie and the horse show
(By Helen Brain & Nicky Webb; illustrated by Rico Schacherl)

Which preteen girl hasn’t longed for her own horse and the glamour of riding it to victory in a horse show? When I was growing up, all these things happened in England. This entertaining story is set in South Africa, though the formula is the same — rivalry, tears and, finally, a happy ending. With cartoony illustrations by Rico of Madam & Eve fame, it’s bound to be a winner among the nine-to-12 set.

Young adults: Diamond Boy
(By Michael Williams; published by Oxford)

The story of 15-year-old Patson and his family, who are caught up in the horrors of illegal diamond mining the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe, is not for the faint-hearted.

It exposes readers to some of the worst traits of the human spe- cies — but also to some of the best. Fast-paced, graphic and often violent, it is a page-turner.

I was a bit put off by the fact that it doubles as a learners’ guide, with pointers to aspects of style and plot and notes on the meaning of some of the more difficult words, but it is obviously intended as a set work—and a worthy one it will be.

Young adults: Meeting Shaka and Mzilikazi 3
(Published by Heritage)

As offerings in the Our Story series, these books are intended to tell “the stories that were and still are not told or taught in our schools”.

It’s a great idea but the telling is not gripping and, with their sepia tones and stylised illus- trations, I’m not sure they will appeal to the first additional language learners at whom they are aimed.

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