I’ve admired the work of both Jude and Niki Daly for many a long year and so was thrilled to see this, Jude Daly’s new picture book.
At the heart of a village in Africa stands an enormous, ancient tree. It’s loved by all the villagers, particularly Joseph who had climbed to its very top as a boy. Now Joseph is a grown man and one stormy night, his favourite tree is blown down.
Joseph feels sad that his soon to be born baby will never be able to climb the tree but he saves a piece of its trunk and little by little fashions it into a beautiful cradle. He also plants a new young tree to replace the old one.
When the new baby, Sisi, is born, Joseph is thrilled and every night until she outgrows it, he and his wife Mandisa sit beside the cradle singing the baby an African lullaby.
Thereafter a tradition begins: every new baby would sleep in Joseph’s cradle until they outgrew it and Joseph would add its name to those carved into the cradle’s side.
When the time comes for SIsi’s own grandchild to be rocked in the cradle, disaster strikes: a fire rages across the veld towards the village destroying Joseph and Mandisa’s home and everything in it.
The villagers build a new home for Joseph and his wife but what of the cradle; is it forever gone?
Let’s just say that Joseph isn’t the only person dancing in joyful thanks that day …
Inspired by a true story set in Australia, Jude Daly has set her telling in South Africa, home to the aptly called Cradle of Humankind, one of eight South African World Heritage Sites. It’s both moving and a reminder of the importance of continuity and renewal.
The painterly illustrations are a fine portrayal of the life of a village over several generations.