Newsletter Number 1 2017
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Welcome to IBBY SA’s first newsletter of the year!

Sad news since our last letter is the death in January of Dr Anna Louw, former chairperson of IBBY SA. Jay Heale has kindly written a tribute to her, reflecting on her valuable contribution to IBBY SA. Before joining IBBY SA’s executive committee, she had a long distinguished career as a librarian and academic. As Peter Lor, former National Librarian, remarks on the LIASA networks, she “was a wonderful role model for women in a profession at a time when the more senior positions were dominated by men”.  Clare Walker, a former student who followed her into leadership positions in the library profession, has noted “her rigorous, dazzling editorial methods which she applied to professional journals, publications and the work of her students, and which remain the gold standard for anyone in LIS in South Africa today.”
With her love of reading and libraries, I think Anna would be pleased to hear the good news that Yamada has approved our schools programme proposal for 2017. So, again in partnership with Biblionef, we can go ahead with the plan to bring core libraries to 12 rural schools in North West Province and, in a new departure, collections of engaging story books to two literacy projects in Cape Town that work with migrant and refugee children from other parts of Africa.   
More good news in February was that Exclusive Books has agreed again to support our major prize, the biennial Exclusive Books IBBY SA Picture Book Award. We have just received 35 books from publishers as candidates and they are now being circulated among our 11 jury members. The jury, led by Robin Malan and Lona Gericke, will meet late in June to decide on our short list and final winner. Looking at the high quality books on the list, I know already that the debate will be heated.


September is the deadline for the submission of South African books for IBBY’s Honour List of Books for display at the 2018 Congress.  Samukelo Nombembe has been gathering our members’ nominations via our quarterly best books box circulated to all our members. There will be just one more chance for you to add your nominations before we whittle them down to a short list and final voting. Look out for Sam’s invitation in the next few days.  
2017 is an important year for IBBY SA as it’s the election year when we renew our leadership.  Long-standing members of the executive committee are stepping down and next month we will put out a call for nominations for fresh hands to take over the reins. Please do take up this opportunity to take IBBY SA forward in its mission to foster South Africa children’s literature and widen children’s access to it.  I think the next few years will bring some exciting shifts as policy-makers get the message that easy everyday access to engaging children’s books in their own home languages is the key to children’s literacy - and therefore to better academic performance all round.  My optimism comes partly from hearing that the imminent (hopefully!) White Paper on Arts,Culture and Heritage spells out the responsibility of government to support our neglected indigenous languages and literatures – thus perhaps following the example of other countries where government subsidies to writers and publishers have helped revive marginalised languages and literatures.  
The dire shortages of books in our indigenous languages was a strong theme in the two-day workshop at SASNEV 27 and 28 March, organised by PRAESA’s Carole Bloch and Gaby Rademeyer in collaboration with IBBY SA and Biblionef,  and funded by PEN and the IBBY-Yamada Fund.  Forty role-players in the world of South African children’s literature gathered to “take stock” of development of multilingual children’s literacy and literature.  (See the short report below.)  
Another energising event at SASNEV was our first Book Bash of 2017 28 March. It began with a sparkling story told by Nompucuko Zakaza, who was visiting from the Eastern Cape. The story reminded us to be eagles, not ground-scratching chickens – so was a nice introduction to the handing-over of our 2016 Honours List certificates to our high-flying authors and publishers. Then Jebbie Reznek of Magnet Theatre gave an eye-opening talk Theatre for Babies. See below for photos and more on Jennie’s talk.  
Our featured project is an after-school reading and homework club in an informal settlement in Gugulethu Cape Town, set up by storyteller and reading activist Nobuhle Somi.

Genevieve Hart and now sadly long-distance co-editor Neil Goodwin

Professor Anna Louw  1932-2017
A tribute from Jay Heale

There was a time (around 2001) when the South African Children’s Book Forum (SACBF) was even more wobbly than usual. The membership was low, the bank balance laughable, all energy available was being put into planning our hosting of the 2004 IBBY Congress. The Executive Committee was thin on the ground and we had no Chair. That was when Prof Anna Louw, a retired and highly experienced librarian and academic, agreed to take the Chair. She brought with her a no-nonsense attitude, a waft of common sense, and a cheery sense of humour. She encouraged the growing team working on the Congress, and was part of our delegation (as official voting member for South Africa) at the 2002 IBBY Congress in Basel.

Mpho Ndebele, Anna Louw and Lesley Beake
at the IBBY Congress in Cape Town 2004 .

Anna hosted the Congress gala opening in 2004 with courteous confidence, and guided the conference proceedings at the Baxter by starting each day with meticulous “Housekeeping Notes” for that day’s programme. Anna continued to attend and support the meetings and activities of SACBF / IBBY SA until her declining health made that no longer possible. We remain grateful for all that she did on behalf of IBBY South Africa and the children’s literature of our country.
Autumn Book Bash 28 March 2017

Our twice postponed Book Bash was worth waiting for! It turned out to be a rather special celebratory evening.  The star of the evening was Jennie Reznek of Magnet Books but leading into her talk we were treated to a wonderful story by Nompucuko Zakaza. Then we handed over some of the IBBY List of Honour Books certificates.

(Please note our original  artwork in the background. Some of our best illustrators have donated it for us to raise some much-needed funds. We have already sold three! )
IBBY List of Honour Books 2016 certificates

Charmaine Kendal & Robin Malan, author and publisher(Junkets) of Miscast


Michelle Cooper of Tafelberg, publisher of illustrator Dale Blankenaar’s Rhinocephants on the Roof 

Debra Primo
UKZN Press, publisher of Sindiwe Magona’s  Umculo neentsomi zase-Afrika (Isixhosa translation of Gcina Mhlophe’s Stories for Africa).
Magnet Theatre’s Jennie Reznek on Theatre for Babies

Alerted by glowing reports of Magnet Theatre’s work with children, we asked Robin Malan, himself a doyen of Cape Town theatre, to invite Jennie Reznek to come and tell us more. Her talk was full of joyful surprises with interesting reflections on, for example, the power of theatre as “empathy gym”.  She told us that theatre for children is driven by the same principles as adult theatre.  It’s all about “being” – engaging us in what it means to be a human being.  See the photos for the “gaze”, the bridge of connection between performer and child. The young Magnet performers use the enclosed space of a tent to keep babies and their caregivers rapt for as long as 30 minutes – proving how responsive, focused and engaged babies can be.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by  the challenges our children face but, watching the reactions of the people around me,  I know that the peep into Magnet’s wonderfully inclusive work left us with new optimism and energy.

Warm thanks to Jennie for a very special evening!   Genevieve Hart
Issues in the Development of Multilingual Children’s Literacy
and Literature in South Africa – Taking Stock Workshop
27-28 March 2017, SASNEV Pinelands 


The workshop originated in a proposal from Carole Bloch of PRAESA to IBBY’s 2016 Yamada Fund for a “policy” colloquium to examine reading culture development in South Africa, under the title The Intertwining of Literacy and Literature.  With further support from PEN, it grew into a two day event, each day with panel discussions and lively interactions from the floor. The first day looked at the links between children’s literacy and story: the underlying argument being that current “part to whole” classroom approaches, in Carole Bloch’s words, “rob children of what they need” to make meaning from written language.  Building a stronger reading culture will depend on breaking down the artificial distinctions between “learning to read” and “reading to learn”.  

The second day, under the heading Multilingual Book Creation, Production and Translation, zoomed in the challenges on the ground in providing South African children with engaging books in their own home languages. A number of projects, like the Children’s Book Network, Biblionef and the African Storybook Project, described their challenges in choosing which books to publish and translate. The day included two case studies, which picked up nicely some of the issues IBBY SA explored in our Questions of Translation Book Bash in May 2016. In their report on Xolisa Guzula’s translating into isi-Xhosa of George’s Secret Key to the Universe, she and Xolisa Tshongololo showed how the often-cited problems of scientific terminology might be solved. Then PRAESA’s Nkululeko Ndiki and Arabella Koopman told us of how they tackle the pressures of the multilingual translating of Na’libali’s stories for the Sunday newspapers every fortnight.  

The event closed with a disappointingly inconclusive panel discussion, which set out to examine how government, policy-makers and mainstream publishers might be persuaded to play a more vital role in the development of multilingual children’s literature. We heard of the bureaucracies inside government education departments and of the unwieldy procurement and supply chain processes in school and library systems that shut out small publishers. The virtual non-existence of school libraries and teacher librarians was identified as a huge stumbling block. The PASA representative talked of the bottom–line realities of commercial publishing. This led to debate around the imminent Revised White Paper on Arts Culture and Heritage, which acknowledges the need for government to provide financial support for multilingual publishing. 

Congratulations and thanks to PRAESA’s Carole Bloch and Gaby Rademeyer  for a well-planned and energising two days!
Genevieve Hart
Featured Reading Project: Intsika Yolwazi

Photo: Nobuhle Ndungane –Somi
Intsika Yolwazi was founded by in 2000 and was registered as an NPO in 2010. Our aim is to bring reading close to the young children who are far from any existing libraries. We have a reading room in one of the informal settlements in Gugulethu. Our children have participated in some competitions and festivals. One competition was organized at the Centre for the Book and they were the overall winners. The competition involved reading, spelling bee and some comprehension. Another reading and storytelling festival was organized by Intsika Yolwazi.
Photo: Nobuhle Ndungane –Somi

The children come to the reading room after school to enjoy reading, do their homework, since their homes are so congested, as well as listen to stories.
Kathy Madlener IBBY SA Reviewing Coordinator

Four glowing reviews are selected for this issue, including Samukelo Nombembe’s review of the Isi-Xhosa fiction MML 2017 Literature Award  winner.  We would love to include more books across our languages but struggle to find reviewers. Please volunteer!  
There was heated discussion at the PRAESA/IBBY/PEN workshop, reported on earlier, over the challenges in the editing of children’s books in our African languages. It made us wonder how our South African editors would match up to the criteria for the Rosie, the new Australian Award for Editorial Excellence: rapport with the author; adherence to or improvement of the editing assignment; thoroughness and consistency; attention to detail; problem-solving; appropriate research, and rewriting where required; and credibility and trustworthiness.

Akulahlwa Mbeleko Ngakufelwa  by Zukiswa Pakama  Maskew Miller Longman, 2016.
Le ncwadi, iphumele kwi MML 2016  Literature Award (ifumene iMbasa kwi IsiXhosa Fiction  yolutsha). Le noveli ijolise kwinjongo zikaSinomtha. Laxa engonwabanga emphefumlweni ngenxa yotata onempilo engentlanga,inqkubo yakhe malungana nesikolo intle,ukrelekrele kwaye unesipho sokucula. Eli bali liqhubeka kwindawo ephakathi kwamatyotyombe,ixesha lalemihla elibonisa imeko yokuphila kwabantwana nentsapo zabo. Omnye wabahlobo bakhe, uGqiyazana, uphuma kwikhaya elifumileyo. USinomtha ulangazelela ukuba abe yimvumi. Uzibona exhomeke kuGqiyazana ngenxa yekatala kuba kunyanzeleke enze wonke umsebenzi wakhe wasesikolweni ukufikelela kwikatala. Emva kokufa kukayise, ubuhlobo bubanengxuphalo nengxa yale katala. Intsokolo kaSinomtha, ukungakwazi ukuba neyakhe ikatala, ukummonelwa nguGqiyazana  lo obemxhasa, ukruthakruthwano phakathi kwabahlobo kwenza abafundi  bamsizele/bayakwazi ukuziva iimvakalelo. Ulwimi lukholisa abafundi  bebanga lika 8-12. Le ncwadi iphonononga imixholo nemiba yosapho, ukunyaniseka, impixano, kunye nobuhlobo, ichukumisa imiba echaphazela uluntu ngokubanzi, kwaye ikhuthaza novelwano phakathi kwabafundi. Lencwadi ikhuthaza abafundi, ukuba babe neenjongo, neminqweno ebomini,bangalahli  ithemba xa  behlangabezana  neengxaki. Ekugqibeleni, iminqweno  yakhe yafezekiswa njengokuba uyise omninci ohlala phesheya  wafika emphathele isipho sekatala.
This book, the winner of the MML 2017 Literature Award for Isi-Xhosa fiction for teenagers, deals with overcoming adversity against all odds.  Sinomtha’s father is dying and her brother is in prison. The fear of losing a loved one haunts her and her mother in their humble shack; and people keep away out of superstition and fear.  Sinomtha longs to be a musician.  She often borrows her friend Gqiyazana’s guitar.  The deal is that, as long as Sinomtha does all her school work, she can have access to the guitar.  After her father’s death all her friends desert her. The story is engaging as it clearly portrays the hardships faced by a teenage girl who is victimised because of her social status and family tragedy.  The language is simple and will engage readers in their early teens. They will relate to Sinomtha‘s emotions about the dilemmas she faces.  But the arrival of Sinomtha’s long lost uncle brings hope.  The book explores themes of family dynamics, loyalty, conflict, and friendship.  Readers can relate to Sinomtha as the story touches on issues that affect society as a whole and it promotes empathy amongst people from different backgrounds on how to deal with terminal illnesses. The story is rooted in South African realities and it will be even more appealing to readers if it is read aloud. There is suspense as the reader often wonders, “How will Sinomtha deal with this challenge?”  She will inspire her young teen readers by showing them how she hangs on to her dreams.
Samukelo Nombembe

Elevation. The Thousand Steps by Helen Brain.  Human and Rousseau, 2016

This dystopian, fantasy novel, the first book in the Elevation trilogy,  is set in the familiar surroundings of the Western Cape.

Ebba has spent all of her 16 years in an underground bunker inside Table Mountain . She, along with 2000 other children of the same age, have been told how they were selected at birth from the most gifted parents to be saved from the wrath of the “ Great Purification “which would destroy everyone at the foot of Africa. But all is not what it seem , the children are regularly sacrificed to the gods and they are kept like slaves.

By a sudden twist of fate Ebba escapes and is elevated to join the “elite” outside. Disoriented, scared and missing her friends, she finds herself the mistress of a huge property left to her by a mysterious aunt. Waited on by servants and feted by powerful people, she feels very alone.  Who should she trust, why has she been saved and what is the importance of the amulet she wears round her neck, which is of so much interest to powerful people?

This exciting, fast paced novel with a good dose of romance and an interesting heroine, is a welcome  addition to the South African young adult market. I look forward to the second book in this series. It seems Ebba will be called on to save the world from evil. Will she be up to the task?
Kathy Madlener

Lyle the Crocodile
by Dianne Stewart and Joan Rankin  Jacana, 2016

Lyle has terrible toothache because he hasn’t been looking after his teeth. His parents have told him to brush and floss, now he is suffering the consequences.

Harry the hippo, suggests going to the dentist but not many dentists are keen to treat a grumpy crocodile! Who is going to brave Lyle’s fearsome teeth and take away the pain?

Perfect for Pre schools and Grade 1, this humorous tale looks not only at the importance of oral hygiene but also the symbiotic relationship between animals in nature.

Joan Rankin’s illustrations are beautiful, but the pale colours seem  a little too gentle for this subject.
Kathy Madlener
Mr Hare Meets Mr Mandela by Chris van Wyk and Paddy Bouma   Jacana, 2016

Chris van Wyk’s quirky sense of humour, paired with Paddy Bouma’s engaging  illustrations, makes this book, one of his last before he died, a winner for children (and adults).

One morning Mr Hare wakes up in his forest home and finds a R200 note lying on his doorstep.

He recognises the picture of Mr Mandela and, after calling a meeting of all the animals, he declares he is off to the city to return this note to its rightful owner. This is the first time he has undertaken this journey and the animals scoff at his quest because, they point out, he can’t even read, how will he ever find his way to Mr Mandela!

Hare’s R200 get’s steadily reduced as the various characters he meets long the way take him for a ride .When he finally meets the president  and hands him his note, it’s not the orange R200 note but the green R10 one!

Paddy Bouma’s illustrations are perfect; they really complement the text and her hare looks sassy and busy . This wonderful large format picture book comes highly recommended. It should be in all our schools and homes.
Kathy Madlener


Box 847 Howard Place 7450 South Africa; Email    


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IBBY SA - THE INTERNATIONAL BOARD ON BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE SOUTH AFRICA · Box 847, Howard Place, 7450 South Africa · Cape Town, WC 7450 · South Africa

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