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.
I’m delighted to see this in print again: it was (along with Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain) a big favourite with a reception class I was teaching at the time it was first published and became the inspiration for a huge wall display.
‘It was hot. Everything was hot and dry.’ Thus begins this scorcher of a book – no actually it begins on the front cover with baboon’s arm waving, Thereafter, Porcupine sniffs the air and smells the coming rain. He then passes the good news on to the zebras – they see it …
and transmit the news to the baboons: they hear it and go to tell the rhino. Down comes the first raindrop – splash! And rhino feels it.
Lion, last to receive the news has a truly multi-sensory experience: he smells it; he sees it; he hears it; he feels and … he tastes it. Ahhh bliss! A torrent ensues filling every water hole, cleansing and refreshing the land and, when it eventually ceases, the animals are there to enjoy the bounties it leaves behind: big shady green leaves, cool soft squelchy mud to lie in; fresh juicy fruits to eat;
cool refreshing water to drink in the waterhole and the promise of further rain to come…
Everything about this uplifting book is admirable: the scene setting cover; the way tension mounts towards the dramatic climactic downpour then eases down as the animals relish what it leaves in its wake; the seamless integration of pictures and words; the way the carefully chosen words (a delight to read aloud) and painterly illustrations (they really transport you to the African savannah setting) play an equal part. Then there’s the repetition, the print presentation; the circularity of the whole thing …
This was a great debut picture book for Manya Stojic: I hope we see more of her solo books (re)published here in the UK.
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