Considering small children led me to thinking about upcoming Christmas celebrations and gift giving. I thought I'd highlight ten (random number, but there you have it) children's books written by/about Africans that I think would make excellent gifts. If they appeal, I hope you'll have time to order them by the big day (www.africabookcentre.com if your local independent cannot supply).
My first choice is an all-time favourite FLY, EAGLE, FLY: AN AFRICAN TALE! - a retelling of the famous story of James Aggrey's The Eagle That Would Not Fly. Retold in this edition by an Anglican priest, Christopher Gregorowski and set in the Transkei. The illustrations by the South African author and artist, Niki Daly, are phenomenal, perfectly pitched to the tone of the text:
A farmer went out one day to search for a lost calf. The little herd boys had come back without it the evening before. And that night there had been a terrible storm.The eagle is raised among chickens and so believes itself to be one, until a visitor to the village reminds it how to be an eagle.
He went to the valley and searched. He searched by the riverbed. He searched among the reeds, behind the rocks and in the rushing water.
He wandered over the hillside and through the dark and tangled forests where everything began, then out again along the muddy cattle tracks.
He searched in the long thatch grass, taller than his own head. He climbed the slopes of the high mountain with its rocky cliffs rising to the sky. He called out all the time, hoping that the calf might hear, but also because he felt so alone. His shouts echoed off the cliffs. The river roared in the valley below.
He climbed up a gully in case the calf had huddled there to escape the storm. And that was where he stopped. For there, on a ledge of rock, close enough to touch, he saw the most unusual sight - an eagle chick, very young, hatched from its egg a day or two before and then blown from its nest by the terrible storm.
He reached out and cradled it in both hands. He would take it home and care for it. And home he went, still calling, calling in case the calf might hear.
Gregorowski hoped, in the telling of this tale, to encourage and inspire his dying 7-year old daughter, Rosalind. The foreword by Desmond Tutu captures this feeling: "We are not mere chickens, but eagles destined to soar to sublime heights; we are made for freedom and laughter and goodness and love and eternity, despite all appearances to the contrary. We should be straining to become what we have it in us to become; to gaze at the rising sun and lift off and soar."
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It would be particularly suitable for children ages six and up, and also for adults learning English as a second language as, while the language is simple, the concepts are mature.