South African Childrens Literature

Reviews of Additional Books for Little Footprints (ages 4-8)

This is a list of recommended South African childrens literature that will enhance studies of South Africa, especially for users of the Little Footprints South African Homeschool Curriculum.

South African Children's Literature - mother and child reading a book


We are often asked to provide lists of South African childrens literature. The following are books that have not been included in our Footprints South African homeschool curriculum programmes, but which we have read and recommend.

If you are using Little Footprints then use this South African childrens literature to enhance your children’s learning experience.

Most of the books reviewed below are South African books, but many of them are out of print. However, you can enjoy them by borrowing them from the library. If your local library does not stock them, then ask the librarian to order them for you from Inter-library Loans.

Please note: This list of South African childrens literature is copyrighted which means that you cannot copy and paste it into an email and send it out to egoups and friends but please feel free to send your friends a link from this page!

Titles still in print

Books about Nelson Mandela

Out of print titles – use the library to find these books


The Herd Boy, by Niki Daly

The Herd BoyMalusi is a herd boy who tends sheep and goats in the mountains of the Transkei. Out in the fields of his rural home he observes eagles fly while on the ground below, beetles crawl, termites scurry and dust flies. Malusi plays games of stick-fighting with his friend. But there’s danger too…a hungry baboon who’s stalking the flock. One day an old man in a shiny car stops to chat, and encourages the herd boy in his dream of being president. This is a story of empowerment, self-belief and leadership, and it is inspired by the life of former president Nelson Mandela. It has a powerful, thought-provoking message that will stir the heart of homeschooling parents: “What is it about a person’s childhood that prepares him for great things in adulthood?”

Goal, by Mina Jahaverbin

GoalIn a dusty informal settlement in South Africa, Ajani and his friends have earned a brand-new, federation-size soccer ball. This bunch of boys are football champions, but will they be able to prevent the gang of bullies from stealing their treasured ball?


 Adventures of Riley -Safari in South Africa, by Amanda Lumry

South African childrens literature - Safari in South Africa - click to buy from Kalahari.netNine-year-old Riley travels to South Africa to help his Uncle Max, a conservation biologist, track and count wild animals. They see wild African animals like baboon, cheetah, giraffe, and others. The stunning double-page spreads combine colour photos of the bush, good close-up shots of specific animals as well as cartoon illustrations of Riley and the guides in the jeep. There are also boxed insets with facts combining science with the adventure.

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How it was with Dooms, by Xan and Carol Hopcraft

How it was with Dooms - click to buy from Kalahari.netThis book, written by a mother and son team tells of their true experience of fostering a cheetah cub inKenya. It is a moving and heartwarming story illustrated with beautiful colour photo spreads and some of young Xan’s drawings of the African wildlife..

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One Child One Seed, by Kathryn Cave

South African childrens literature - One Child One Seed - click to buy from Kalahari.netThis beautiful book, with full colour photos throughout iswritten on three levels.

Firstly, it is a South African counting book.Secondly, it is a strory about a child who plants a seed and reaps the pumpkin that grows. Thirdly, it gives factual information about life inrural KwaZulu-Natal.

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An African ABC, by Jacqui Taylor

South African Childrens literature - An African ABC

This is a beautiful book to use to teach the ABC’s in an African context.

Illustrations that highlight the flora, fauna, places and customs of Africa accompany the charming alliterations.

Please note there is apicture of a sangoma and her bones on one page.

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African Alphabet Wildlife and Number Book

African Wild animal alphabet

Aimed at 3 to 5 year olds, this title introduces the alphabet and basic numbers and counting through the theme of African wildlife and nature.

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To Everything There is a Season, by Jude Daly

To Everything There is a Season - click to buy from“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…”

The well-loved words of Ecclesiastes take on new life and meaning in the sun-baked rural setting of a South African homestead.

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Huberta, by Peter Younghusband

Huberta - click to buy from Kalahari.netThis book is based on the true story of a hippo, which, in the late1920’s, wandered from KwaZulu-Natal down the east coast ofSouth Africa as far as King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. Huberta, as the hippo became known, caused some trouble along theway but after featuring in newspaper headlines around the world, shebecame the darling of the public.
You are advised to pre-read chapters 9 and 10 which are partly about a witch doctor. You may wish to edit out bits of the chapter and use it to explain to your children that some people are not Christians andfollow other beliefs. Similarly, there is a non-Biblical comment at the end about God being too busy, that would need explaining.

Angelo at the Waterfront, by Christopher Gregorowski

Angelo at the WaterfrontAngelo has promised to find a way to place the silver star at the top of his school’s Christmas tree. But the Norfolk pine tree is just too tall for Angelo to climb. So he asks his neighbours, three young paramedics, to fly him in their helicopter to the top of the tree. They agree, but first take him on a flip round the Cape Peninsula, taking in the Atlantic Seaboard, Chapman’s Peak, Cape Point, Muizenberg and finishing up in Table Bay. Just as Angelo is about to place the star on the tree, a rescue call comes in. It’s an emergency at sea!

Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill, by Linda Fellowes

Peter Pamela and PercyThis story, written in rhyme for 3-7 year olds is based on true events. When the ship ‘Treasure’ sank in June 2000 just north of Cape Town and caused an oil slick which harmed thousands of sea birds, an enormous clean-up operation ensued. To buy time to clean the beaches and the sea, approximately 16 000 penguins were trucked from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and released there to swim back to the Cape. Peter, Pamela and Percy, were three of them who were equipped with tracking devices to plot their routes.

Susan and the Leopard, by Joan Norton
(Available from Footprints On Our Land only when you order a Little Footprints package.)
This is a home published story based on the true instance of aleopard that roamed through the town of Betty’s Bay, writtenby the mother of the game ranger that captured the leopard, to release it elsewhere in the wild. In this story, little Susan feeds the pussycat, until the grown ups realize just what a cat it is!

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Here are reviews of three books that we have found but which for one reason or another were not suitable for the Little Footprints programme. Nevertheless they could be used with modification as indicated.

Long walk to freedomLong Walk to Freedom by Chris van Wyk

An abridged and illustrated version of Mandela’s autobiography of the same title. This book captures his life story, from his youth as a village boy in a rural area, to his leadership of the ANC, the years spent in prison and his eventual freedom and amazing elevation to the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman, by Floyd Cooper

South African childrens literature Mandela - click to buy from Kalahari.netA beautifully illustrated book with rather hefty text but it would be readable to an 8 year old.

This book is much more detailed than the one above. It does have references to the armed freedom struggle and certain injustices during the Apartheid era.

However, the book is written with much love and also covers a lot of Mandela’s early life, before his involvement in the ANC.

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What a Gentleman by Diane Case (Out of print)
Case’s book presents an opportunity to study caricature and ‘bubble speak’. It is written at the 4 – 8 year level and is a simple introduction to Mandela’s life. However, we feel that the last page in the book was inappropriate for this age group and the comment made that would raise questions, for which many young children are not morally ready. These last two pages can easily be skipped and so the whole story should not be discounted.

The Rainbow Man by Lionel J. Maxim
This is an illustrated biography, which enables children to identify with Mandela from his early years in a rural village to the highest Office of State, as well as the hardships in between. The fifteen chapters would be too much for our younger ones, but along with the pictures on every page, an abridged telling of the story by mom or dad could work. No matter what your political views, you are bound to find this story inspiring. For mature 8-year olds maybe, or ideally children about 10 and up.

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Storytime, by Jay Heale
This is a compilation of stories and poems by various South African authors. There are also includes several “Did you Know?” boxes with relevant factual information about aspects of some of the stories, to add to their value.

Storyland, by Jay Heale
This is the sequel to Storytime, however this time, the authors were asked to write a story set in a specific place in South Africa. Notesabout the geographical setting are included at the start of each story.

Marcus and the Boxcar, by Marguerite Poland

After reading Marcus and the Boxing Gloves, we were sold on Marcus and his adventures. In this story Marcus has to stay for the school holidays with his strange Aunt Frieda. He meets up with the local children and they build a boxcar together. It brings out the best and worst in sibling and friendship relationships and is definitely worth a good read.
Afrikaans: Markus en die Kaskar

Hamlet and Kimberley, by Lynn Bedford-Hall

South African children's literature Hamlet and KimberleyThe adventure-loving piglet with a fringe, Hamlet and his new friend, a cuckoo called Kimberley, who makes a nest in Hamlet’s hair take a trip across the Karoo in search of Kimberley’s parents. An exciting discovery at the Big Hole puts a happy end to their journey.This is a fun introduction to a variety of local places as well as South African flora and fauna.
Afrikaans: Potjie en Kimberley

Grandma’s Hat, by Rosemary Kahn
Set in the Karoo near De Aar, Grandma tells the story of when she was a girl and how the Sunday hat she detested, came to belong to a neighbouring farmer’s scarecrow.
Afrikaans: Ouma se Hoed

Peter the Gardener, by Jenny Seed.
An avid young gardener, Peter, has to leave his home and stay with hisrelatives in Durban as his mother is admitted to hospital. He struggles to find anyway to plant his giant delphinium seeds that his dad gave to him, until he finds a most unusual spot and the plants growth has the most extraordinary consequences. A good “go-along”with The Professor’s Garden.
Afrikaans: Jantjie se Blomtuin.

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Mondi, the Music Maker, by Dianne Stewart
Mondi is a young boy with a crippled leg, who is musically talented. He cannot dance or play soccer with his friends but they enjoy his musicwhich he plays on his recorder. He earns money playing outside The Workshop in Durban, but when he loses his instrument on the train, he has to make a difficult decision about what to do with his money. This inspiring story will tug at your hearts –“a story with more depth than many.” (Jay Heale)

Afrikaans: Mondi, die Fluitspeler. Also available in in Xhosa and Zulu.

Look out for other books by Dianne Stewart in your library.

Armien’s Fishing Trip, by CatherineStock
Armien lives in Kalk Bay and is the son of a fisherman. Eager to experience a trip to sea, he stows away on his father’s boat and becomes the hero of the day, when he rescues a fellow fisherman tossed overboard in the bad weather.
Afrikaans: Armien Gaan See Toe.

The Boy on the Beach, by Niki Daly
A boy wanders away from his parents and has his own adventure on an abandoned boat he finds. A simple story about a day at the beach.
Afrikaans: Die Seun op die Strand

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The Wind’s Song, by Jenny Seed
We loved the illustrations in this book! The text offers itself to astudy of the wind for older children and has the ability to help teachall family members that they have a role to play no matter how small they are.
Afrikaans: Die Wind se Lied.

The Big Pumpkin, by Jenny Seed
A good book for new readers, beyond the 3 letter word stage. Siphofinds a pumpkin vine and watches the only one unspoilt pumpkin mature until it is ready to be harvested. It is so big he can’t get it back to his hut.

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Hout Bay’s Big Catch, by Debora Savage
We were tempted to add this book and its companion, The Houtbay Stowaways, for the value of the pictures of Cape Town’s parade area, flower sellers as well as the lovely scenes of Houtbay,which are true to life. Some of the text is objectionable but please check it for yourself. Flight from Houtbay is a third book by this author. Available in Afrikaans.

The Karoo Hen, by Jenny Seed
This is an early reader type of book but it will fit in well alongside Marcus and the Boxing Gloves. The Karoo Hen is an individual who doesnot want to be like the other hens in the yard. She is always doing something different in order to make herself feel important. One day she wanders onto an empty railroad car and ends up in Johannesburg…
Afrikaans: Die Karoo Hennetjie

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Leo’s Christmas Surprise, by Niki Daly
The grown ups are busy with the preparations for Christmas Day and little Leo is puzzled by the odd assortment of household items that his grandfather takes into his workshop – a rolling pin, a bath plug, theleg of a broken chair etc…it is his Christmas surprise in the making.
Afrikaans: Leo se Kersverrassing.

Ntombi’s Song, by Jenny Seed.
Ntombi is given money and sent to the shop on her own to buy sugar forthe first time. Ntombi is proud of the responsibility she has been given but longs to be more grown up. Along the way, she has dangers toface and when the precious sugar gets spilt in the sand, she has to overcome her fears. A beautifully illustrated story set in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Afrikaans: Ntombi se Lied.

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Sipho’s New Shoes, by Wendy Christopher
When Sipho’s money for new shoes is stolen, a kindly stranger gives him the opportunity to earn what he needs to buy the shoes. Setin Durban, this story will captivate your children and bring home some sound Biblical principles, even though it is a secular story.
Afrikaans:Sipho se Nuwe Skoene

Midnight Cat, by Maretha Maartens
The family thinks their pet is a day cat, but they are mistaken. When they are asleep his mischief begins. This book will fit in well with the lesson on nocturnal animals in A South African Night.
Afrikaans:Die Nagkat

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Bau and the Boabab Tree, by Lesley Beake
Written for beginner readers in Tafelberg’s Fun-to-Read series, this is an amusing story about children playing hide-and-seekin the veld. While looking for her friends, Bau encounters a variety ofwildlife. It will fit in well with a lesson about footprints and animal tracks.

Looking Back, by CR de Wet van Wyk
A Voortrekker boy on Louis Trichardt’s trek who longs for the comfortsand the delicious fruit of his home in the Cape decides to run away andgo back. He influences two of his friends to go with him. After one scary night in the wild (where they pray briefly too), they return to the laager, and unlike many children’s stories where mischief is glamourised, their sin is punished in Biblical fashion! They are also taught that men should not look back but look ahead – an echo of a Biblical principle.
Afrikaans: Manne Wat Omkyk.

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The Always Late Train and Other Stories, by Jenny Seed
This is a collection of stories that are set in various places around South Africa. You could plot them on your map along with our other stories.

Where Do I Come From? by Murray Jansen
The author has aimed to give our children a balanced and truthful answer, including God, love and marriage. The foreword gives advice to parents about how to discuss this sensitive subject in a relaxed way.Suitable for children of 3 years and older, at your discretion.
Afrikaans: Waar Kom Ek Vandaan?

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Footprints on Our Land - South African Homeschool Curriculum