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THE HERD BOY by Niki Daly


by Niki Daly & illustrated by Niki Daly

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5417-9
Publisher: Eerdmans

A day in the life and dreams of a young South African herding boy.

Daly provides an opportunity to witness an everyday existence most likely very different from the one led by readers. Malusi is a Xhosa herder. Daly sketches his day, from his porridge breakfast to taking the sheep and goats out to graze, a little play with his friend, gathering dung to fertilize the garden, a dangerous encounter with a baboon and then home again. There is an elemental rhythm to the story, and the artwork is striking, the colors a mottle of landscape greens and browns, picked out by vivid wildflowers. The author salts the common proceedings with Malusi’s dreams of a better lunch, owning a dog and becoming president of the country one day. (Nelson Mandela makes a brief appearance, reminding readers that he, too, was a herd boy.) Also sprinkled here and there are a sampling of words from South Africa—both Xhosa and Afrikaans; kraal, donga, googa—that are corralled into a glossary, as well as local fauna, from black eagles to puff adders to those opportunistic baboons. Malusi’s life may be cut to the essential, but it is never short on incident and for the need to be on his toes.

Affectionate and existential, Daly has well and fully caught Malusi’s immediate circumstance and his horizons. (Picture book. 6-10)