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Abongi’s Journey, my journey…

 

Girl+bike+pup? Check.

Starry-eyed literary student? Check.

Fast forward a number of years. By-pass a teaching career and two pregnancies. Turn in where the sign announces: ‘Pause here for an adventurous leap into writing independence, self-promotion and prize-winning books.’

After about 10 years spent writing under the umbrellas of various publishing houses and within the constraints of the (ever-changing!) South African schools’ curriculum, I decided to enter a storybook writing competition hosted by The Centre for the Book. I approached Tasia Rosser, whose illustrations I’ve always loved, and we began to work together. The guidelines for the competition were still quite specific – the category we entered was a ‘wordless picture book’ suitable for all of South Africa’s children.

Detour ahead:

For those of you unfamiliar with the South African children’s writing scene, here are a couple of things that inform our writing (if you want to publish or earn any money in our market!):

  • Our terrible apartheid past still has deep deep routes in our collective memories. There is a concerted effort to right this and so writing for children should try to reflect all of our society. Of course this then means that freedom in text, and certainly illustrations, are often contrived to fit this need. There is emphasis placed on showing politically-correct situations such as equality in gender, race, religion.
  • There is not a huge book reading or buying culture in South Africa, yet! This is due to many historical factors but the wonderful thing is that there’s a major push towards literacy in our country and many organisations are doing wonderful work along these lines. Checkout Nali’bali. This has resulted in many children’s stories being written for the school’s market and so you’ll find hundreds of amazingly creative stories, beautifully illustrated… in reader book formats, within classrooms…not on the proud shelves of bookshops amongst the big, glossy, hardcovers brought in from over-the-seas.

What a wonderful process Tasia and I underwent. Normally kept separate, an author and an illustrator were now working together to create a vision of a book that would fit the competition criteria. I began with the simple premiss that all children, regardless of race, religion or gender, had experience of wheels, circles and cycles. This then led to Abongi’s Journey, and in turn to mine.

The rest is now history. Check it out at: www.kerrysraad.com

PS Blogging – upload pics? Check.  Add links? Check.  Tags?! Grrrr….


1 Comment


  1. Yippeee! You started. Well done.
    Abongi’s Journey is one of our family favourites! My Mum got hold of a copy when doing her own children’s readers – the Potjie series with Barbara Coombe, illustrated by Heather Moore.
    Looking forward to more in this space …

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