Lerato Maimela
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
9 Jul 2021
10:52 am

Must-read children’s books by South African authors

Lerato Maimela

Get your little ones reading during the winter school holidays with these children's books.

You're never alone with a book. Picture: iStock

Kids being on school holidays does not mean they cannot polish their reading and writing skills at home with these children’s books. Get your little ones to read some children’s books a few hours a day to improve their vocabulary and comprehension.

Get some daily free time while your little ones read. The following children’s books are fantastic reads and many have been written by South African authors:

The Happy Prince – written by Oscar Wilde

children's book
Picture: Jacana Media

Oscar Wilde’s timeless, compassionate tale of the friendship between the Happy Prince and the Swallow is brought to life by Joan Rankin’s sensitive, magical artwork. Beloved since it was first published in 1888, this enchanting story will be enjoyed by both adults and children. From his high pedestal, the Happy Prince, a magnificent golden statue, can see all the misery of the city below him. He begs a little Swallow to pluck off his treasure and share it amongst the poor. When the Happy Prince asks his new friend to stay and help him, the Swallow receives a lesson in kindness and caring.

The Cool Nguni – written by Maryanne Bester

The Cool Nguni
Picture: Jacana Media

The Cool Nguni is a story about a young Nguni calf who questions his identity in relation to other cattle breeds from across the sea. His patient and loving mother listens to his praise-singing and respond by telling him a tale of the origins and importance of his own breed, the indigenous Nguni. She also explains the names of his relatives and shows him the multi-coloured and patterned hides which make Nguni cattle unique. The 15 hand-painted original illustrations and sensitive text draw upon Africa’s love and respect for Nguni cattle, explaining the importance and myths around cattle to a new generation.

Refilwe – written by Zukiswa Wanner

children's books
Picture: Jacana Media

Refilwe, Refilwe, let down your locks, So I can climb the scraggy rocks! In a cave high up on a craggy cliff, beautiful Refilwe is allowed to see no one but the witch who locked her away. One day, Prince Tumi hears Refilwe singing as he is riding his horse near her cave so he searches for the owner of the magical voice. Will Refilwe ever be free from the evil witch? Will she ever find true love? An African retelling of the classic fairy tale, Rapunzel, by one of our best loved authors, Zukiswa Wanner, with magical illustrations by Tamsin Hinrichsen will keep all children entranced and grow a love of reading. Read aloud, read together, read alone, read forever!

ALSO READ: 35 things to try these school holiday at home

Sharp-Sharp! Thoko – written by Niki Daly

Shap Shap! Thoko
Picture: Jacana Media

This beautifully illustrated book for little ones, the second in the series, is packed with four short stories about Thoko and her grade 3 adventures.

With many lessons to be learnt in the four chapters – “Thoko’s Worst Friend”, “Thoko’s First Library Book”, “What Made Thoko Smile” and “Thoko The Babysitter” – this heart-warming read highlights moments that teach us it’s the simple things in life that matter most.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff – retold by Carole Boch

children's books
Picture: Jacana Media

The Three Billy Goats Gruff are hungry and tired of living in the dusty and thorny veld. Just across the bridge there is a koppie covered in sweet, green grass they would love to eat. But they are afraid of the fierce monster who lives under the bridge. One day they are so hungry they decide to be brave and cross the bridge. Will they outsmart the monster or will he catch them and gobble them up?

I Have Brown Skin and Curly Hair – written by Karen Theunissen

I Have Brown Skin and Curly Hair
Picture: Jacana Media

Everyone in this family looks different. Dad is tall and dark. Mum has light brown hair with green eyes. Some of the children have straight hair; others have curls. People regard them curiously until, one day, one of the children musters the courage to speak up proudly about her identity after she learns where she comes from and why she looks different.

Gogo’s List – written by Portia Dery

children's books
Picture: Jacana Media

Fatima is determined to save the day. She wants to help Gogo with her to-do list so that everyone will realise that she is a big girl now! But things don’t go exactly as expected … Fatima, what have you done?

The Forgotten Scientist: The Story of Saul Sithole – written by Lorato Trok

The Forgotten Scientist.
Picture: Jacana Media

Unrecognised, ignored and forgotten. The Forgotten Scientist: The Story of Saul Sithole is the untold story of a pioneering black scientist who made a great contribution to the fields of anthropology and ornithology in South Africa. Saul Sithole was so committed to his craft that even the weight of apartheid did not stop him from giving 62 years of his life to the scientific world of birds and fossils.

Sithole never received the official recognition he deserved until now. This book validates his contribution, sharing his life’s work and laying out a story that will inspire future generations of scientists. This book would not have been possible without the support of Biblionef and funding from the National Heritage Council.