The best part? It was written in isiZulu: Kids on kids’ books

2019-05-05 20:49

Gogo’s List – Uhlu Lwezinto uGogo Azozenza by Portia Dery and illustrated by Toby Newsome

Jacana Media

32 pages


Fatima is an eight-year-old who is tired of being treated like a little girl the whole time – she’s just waiting for an opportunity to prove that she can be better than she is.

When, one day, Gogo wants someone to help her, Fatima finally finds an opportunity to prove herself.

Today is the day when Fatima will shine and show everyone that she’s a grown girl.

This she does by asking Gogo to let her do her chores.

She first shows off her reading skills by reading through Gogo’s to-do list.

Gogo gives in and entrusts Fatima with her chores.

In her enthusiasm Fatima rushes to do the required chores, not realising that she has dropped and lost Gogo’s list.

She realises it only when she is busy buying groceries at Mr Henry’s shop. She assumes she knows the list by heart and buys what she thinks is right.

But all is not right and Fatima is soon in the middle of a crisis, which is discovered when the family sits down to eat dinner and the food doesn’t taste as it should.

What will happen to Fatima?

Will she be punished for messing up or will her family realise she was doing her best and that this was the first time she had taken responsibility for the chores?

In this book kids learn about growing up and about values; that it’s about doing things the right way; and that you can’t neglect details if you want to do a job well.

It teaches you the importance of not doing things based on assumptions.

It’s about the values of ubuntu – that people need to pay attention to other people because if Fatima’s family had paid attention to her, they would have realised that things were not going well.

The lesson here is also that you sometimes have to take your time with things and learn to enjoy your tasks, or else you’ll forget about even the fun things.

Once we had finished reading Uhlu Lwezinto uGogo Azozenza, I asked Lathi what she thought of the story. She was enthusiastic and said she loved the book.

Her best part? That it was written in isiZulu.

This Golden Baobab Prize-winning book was first published in Ghana as Grandmother’s List, created by Ghanaian writer and literacy activist Portia Dery – her first book – with illustrations by South African Toby Newsome.

Its South African English title is Gogo’s List and, like all of Jacana’s kids’ reads, is available in isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans.

It’s a strategy that is helping diversify the future readership base and that’s definitely working in our house.

Aside from all of the life lessons in the book, there were a whole lot of language lessons for Lathi. Her first language at home is isiZulu but at school it is English.

There’s a lot of new vocab to be gained through Uhlu Lwezinto uGogo Azozenza as the book is written in deep Zulu; I had to explain or translate some of the words into English, such as uhlu (list) – we usually just call it “list” when we speak isiZulu.

Fatima’s mishaps have certainly been a big benefit to us.

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May 31 2020