As a children’s writer, nothing can be quite as rewarding as reading my stories to the little folk for whom the stories were intended. And even more special, when it’s a group of bright-eyed and enthusiastic primary school children who come from predominantly underprivileged backgrounds. On a recent visit to Cape Town, I had the honour of meeting such a group of little ones, when the Otto Foundation asked me to read at one of the libraries that they manage in District Six.
With African animals always at the centre of my stories, it was, quite appropriately, a “Monkey’s Wedding” day when we arrived at the school. For those of you who need further explanation, when the rain is pouring but the sun is still shining through, we South Africans call it a Monkey’s Wedding. My photographer, Coco van Oppens and I dashed indoors and were shown to the absolutely delightful Protea library, beautifully renovated and fully equipped by the Otto Foundation.
The first children to come through the doors was a group of Grade 1 boys, and my heart instantly melted at meeting these cherubs. Some at first shy, and others wonderfully self-assured, they settled down for the reading. Collectively choosing “The Lion and the Clever little Jackal”, they all listened intently, oohing and aahing, expressing hilarious disgust at the Jackal’s diet of lizards and finally clapping in celebration at the clever Jackal’s survival antics.
The next group of Grade 1’s was the girls. Every one of these angels came to greet me with a big hug, and I was totally smitten. Choosing “How Giraffe became so Tall” for me to read out of all my stories, they quietly listened with enthusiasm, laughing at silly Rhino and Giraffe on their adventure and eyes wide with wonder when the Magic Medicine Man’s special food, transforms Giraffe into the lofty creature we know today. After a flurry of activity choosing their own sticker from the back of the book, we said our goodbyes with more hugs and high-fives and my heart was full. What a pleasure and a privilege it was.
All images shot by the Talented CoCo van Oppens 🙂