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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

“We think it’s important that the world becomes more aware of what readers in Africa are thinking” – a Q&A with the Johannesburg Review of Books editor, Jennifer Malec

By Carla Lever

Originally published in the Sunday World: 28 January, 2018; Daily Dispatch: 29 January, 2018; Herald: 1 February, 2018. (Nal’ibali Column 3: Term 1).

Jennifer Malec, editor of the Johannesburg Review of Books

The Johannesburg Review of Books was introduced to local (and international!) bibliophiles in May 2017. Carla Lever recently conducted an interview with editor, Jennifer Malec, discussing the impact of an African critical voice, why they don’t italicise South African languages in their stories, and how we can get more South Africans to start reading for pleasure:

What is The Johnnesburg Review of Books and how did it come about?

JRB is an independent monthly literary review based in Johannesburg. We publish reviews, essays, poetry, photographs and short fiction from South Africa, Africa and beyond. You can subscribe for free at

There are many hugely respected reviews of books globally – the Paris or New York reviews spring to mind – but this is the first African city to claim a space. What kind of impact does the presence of an African critical voice have?

When a new ‘big’ international book is published, we know very quickly what the ‘big’ literary centres of the world think of it. But there is no city-based literary review in Africa, so we don’t hear the opinions of Lagos, Cairo, Kinshasa and so on. We think it’s important that the world becomes more aware of what readers in Africa are thinking.

What role do you see The JRB playing in global and African cultural debates?

In a global context we like to think we are writing back to centres of power as well as demonstrating the value of African voices.

You have an interesting editorial policy about not italicising South African languages in stories. Can you tell us a little about the thinking behind that?

In South Africa most people understand two if not three or four languages, so the question becomes, to whom are these words ‘foreign’? In South Africa, non-English words are not adding ‘flavour’, they are simply a demonstration of how we speak.

We want to give our writers and readers the opportunity to inhabit the story. And our philosophy is, if you don’t understand something, you can always ask. We’re readily available on Facebook and Twitter, and on our website comment section.

What has reader response been like?

Very positive! It’s great to see people responding to longer writing online, when the dominant view seems to be that people want their reading shorter and simpler.

Tell us a little about the kind of work you’ve been able to feature.

We have a number of established literary voices as regular contributors. Soweto-based author Niq Mhlongo is our City Editor. In our June issue he wrote about how he was the one to name Joburg’s famous Maboneng district, inspired by a line in one of his novels. Bongani Madondois a Contributing Editor, and we’re very proud of his explosive review of Koleka Putuma’s debut poetry collection Collective Amnesia, which we featured in our first issue. Other regular contributors are Percy Zvomuya, who is our literary detective, finding fascinating and obscure African books to highlight, and Efemia Chela, who writes a regular series called the Temporary Sojourner where she ‘travels’ throughout Africa by reading the best fiction from around the continent. We also regularly feature Wamuwi Mbao, who we count as one of South Africa’s top reviewers, and have published some wonderful poetry, curated by our Poetry Editor Rustum Kozain.

What have been some of the most exciting moments or stories for you personally?

Some of our biggest thrills have come from publishing new and emerging voices. We were delighted to be the first to publish Love Back – a short story by East London-born writer Julie Nxadi in our July issue. It’s truly remarkable, and was extremely popular with our readers. We since featured Julie again in our December Fiction Issue, and she’s currently working on an anthology. One of the stand-out moments was publishing our first piece entirely in a language other than English, namely Fred Khumalo’s first-ever published story in isiZulu, which we featured in our January Conversation Issue. We hope to be able to do more of this in future.

How do we get more South Africans reading for pleasure?

We’re starting to see if that if stories are good, people will read them. Now it just remains for us to establish what ‘good’ is for a current South African reader, because it may not be what has been considered ‘good’ in the past.

Also, the importance of reading aloud to children and introducing children to books they enjoy cannot be overstated. A common thread in many of the interviews we do with African authors is that they fell in love with reading as a child, usually through reading ‘popular’ books like Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl or Sweet Valley High, and then solidified that love when they were teenagers through books they could relate to in some way. What that says to me is that if we create children’s books that children can relate to, we can get them hooked on reading.

Help Nal’ibali read aloud to one million children this World Read Aloud Day, Thursday 01 February! Visit the Nal’ibali webpage at to sign up and download the brand-new story by acclaimed South African author, Zukiswa Wanner, in any official South African language. You’ll be joining a wave of adults across the country reading to children and raising awareness of the importance of this simple yet effective activity.

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World Read Aloud Day – why reading aloud matters

Via the Read Educational Trust

On World Read Aloud Day, the 1st of February 2018, it is well worth our while to ponder on the countless benefits of such a simple activity.

While children whose parents frequently spend time conversing with them, already have a head start, it’s only in books, newspapers and magazines that enriching vocabulary is seen.

A child who hears these types of words has a giant advantage. Reading aloud also increases a child’s attention span, and when you read aloud, you’re whetting a child’s appetite for reading.

Expecting your child to grow into being an avid reader is wishful thinking if they see no one reading at home.

In an age where the average teen spends 90 minutes a day, sending text messages, it is absolutely vital to keep the habit of reading aloud, alive. There is evidence that we don’t remember information as well when we read it on a screen, so parents and caregivers have a huge responsibility to encourage a love of books and be that priceless reading role model.

READ Educational Trust has a lifelong focus of promoting literacy in a country where 78% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language, according to the recently released PIRLS Study (Progress In International Reading Literacy, 2016). In this context, the ‘Read Aloud Magic’ sets, launched alongside Reading Matters, is a vital tool in encouraging reading aloud, at home and at school.

‘READ ALOUD MAGIC’ Sets Available Online!

Each of three box sets contains 12 beautifully designed books filled with enchanting, adventure-filled stories set in Africa.

These stories are all set in Africa, and revolve around children and animals discovering the world in which they live. Set A is suitable for children aged 4 to 7, while 5-to-8-year-olds will enjoy set B. Set C is aimed at children aged 6 to 9.

These sets are a priceless investment, not only in terms of serving to build your child’s vocabulary, but as far as spending quality time with your little ones goes.

Each set retails for R1500, and may be purchased via, on or directly from Reading Matters. Phone 087 237 7781, or 0800 11 65 35. Alternatively, feel free to e-mail for further information or to order.

Visit to find out more and join the conversations on:


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Death, dining and dynamic women – here’s what Andrew Donaldson read this week


Years ago, in the mid-1990s, I was fortunate enough to meet (in a B&B in Melville, Johannesburg, of all places) Martha Gellhorn, one of the 20th century’s greatest war correspondents. I’d long been an admirer of her books; in particular View From the Ground, The Face of War (both Granta) and The Trouble I’ve Seen (Eland Publishing). All highly recommended.

Gellhorn was then old and frail, and I was warned not to ask about Ernest Hemingway, which seemed absurd. She may have been his third wife, but her own accomplishments were legion; having covered every major conflict from the Spanish Civil War through to the wars in Central America in the mid-1980s, it perhaps would have been more apposite to ask Hemingway about her.

Gellhorn and Hemingway are just two of the myriad characters that pop up in food historian Laura Shapiro’s fascinating What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories (Fourth Estate).

The pair had been invited to the Franklin D Roosevelt’s White House for dinner in 1937. It was a first for Hemingway, and he was greatly surprised Gellhorn wolfed down three sandwiches on the way there. “When you’re invited to a meal at the White House,” she told him, “eat before you go.”

Sage advice. Contemporary presidential menus were horrific. Hemingway complained of “rainwater soup” and a “cake some admirer had sent in. An enthusiastic but unskilled admirer.”

The Roosevelts didn’t have to tolerate such fare. But Eleanor Roosevelt perversely insisted on employing one Henrietta Nesbitt, an exceptionally untalented cook and housekeeper whose reign of terror at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue included mayonnaise dyed green. Why? It was how she got back at her philandering husband. Revenge was served up to three times a day, hot or cold, and tasteless. It does all seem Raold Dahl-ish, doesn’t it?

The other women in Shapiro’s book are Eva Braun, Helen Gurley Brown, Rosa Lewis, Dorothy Wordsworth and Barbara Pym. What’s the link between them all? Absolutely nothing.

The first ever words, incidentally, uttered by Braun to Adolf Hitler were apparently: “Guten appetit!” She had just served Bavarian sausage to a vegetarian.


Most of us want to die in our beds at home, surrounded by loved ones and creature comforts. Instead, most of us will die in hospitals. Cheery stuff, I know. But nothing is more certain than death, or more bewildering and strange. In recent years, there’s been heaps of books by writers who’ve scrutinised their final days: Oliver Sacks, Christopher Hitchens, Jenny Diski and Atul Gawande, among others.

Yet two new books – From Here to Eternity: Travelling the World to Find the Good Death (W&N) by Caitlin Doughty, and With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial (William Collins) by Kathryn Mannix – seem to make the point that, although it’s easier to live longer these days, it is becoming more difficult to die well.

Mannix is a palliative doctor, or “deathwife”, as she refers to herself. She spends her days with the terminally ill and their families. To her, death is something that visits families slowly, over months and years, and while much of her work is medical and diagnostic, she also crucially helps those who are dying and their loved ones to find ways of dealing with the final, great event.

Once you’re gone, well, that’s when Doughty takes over. A rather boisterous American mortician, she earned a reputation for telling it like it is with her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. (Crematorium work, obviously.)

Her From Here to Eternity is an oddly cheerful travel book, and she relishes those rituals from various cultures around the word – from Mexico’s Day of the Dead to the breaking of bodies in Tibet so they may be more easily consumed by vultures – that openly acknowledge death’s enormity.


Rest in peace, then, Peter Mayle, who died last week at 78. The retired advertising executive whose 1989 bestseller, A Year in Provence, started a major trend in memoir and travel writing. Mayle, who started his writing career in his 30s with sex-education books for children, had moved to France in 1987 with the aim of renovating an 18th-century farmhouse and writing a novel. Hassles with the former interfered with the latter, and so his agent convinced him to drop the novel and write about the distractions instead.


“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.” – The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad (Tim Duggan Books)

Book details

View From the Ground


The Face of War


The Trouble I've Seen


What She Ate


From Here to Eternity


With the End in Mind


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes


A Year in Provence


The Last Girl

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“It’s a spectacular feeling!” Acclaimed author Katherine Rundell on winning the Costa Children’s Book Award for The Explorer

By Mila de Villiers

Katherine Rundell has been announced as the winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2017!

Originally established as The Whitbread Book of the Year, the Costa Book Awards honour some of the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the UK or Ireland.

Rundell, the niece of the late Tim Couzens, was recently awarded this prestigious award for her riveting adventure story, The Explorer, published by Bloomsbury.

Here she discusses her lauded book, recounts swimming with pink river dolphins, and offers us a sneak peek of her forthcoming titles…

What does it feel like to be the recipient of an award which has been awarded (please excuse my redundancy!) to the likes of Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, JK Rowling, Chris Riddell, and Frances Hardinge?

It’s a spectacular feeling! To have won the award that was given to so many of my heroes is staggering enough – but, most wonderful of all, the publicity that comes with it means that the book might make its way into more children’s hands – which is the thing that every writer longs for.

Were you expecting this response at all?

Not at all! The shortlist was formidable – three writers whose work I love, all of whom are very different – so to have won was a real shock. A very happy one!

Could you tell our readers a bit more about The Explorer? What inspired you to write it? Can we expect something similar from you in the future?

The Explorer is about four children, whose plane crash lands in the Amazon rainforest and find themselves surviving alone, making cocoa grub pancakes. They find a map, which leads them down the river on a raft, to a ruined city. They discover there’s an explorer living there, and that he has a secret.

I went to the Amazon myself a few years ago, and swam with the wild pink river dolphins, and it remains the most beautiful place I have ever seen – I wanted to offer children that landscape, and that excitement.

The next book will be very different, but will, like The Explorer, have adventure at its heart – and, for the next book, a bit of crime, as well.

The Explorer

Book details

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Kunstenaarsbeurse beskikbaar vir bywoning van die US Woordfees 2018

Vir kunstenaars is die Woordfees meer as net uitstekende vermaak of pitkos. Dis ’n plek waar kreatiewe vonke spring – tussen kunswerk en toeskouer, tussen konsepte en idees, en dikwels ook tussen kunstenaars, generasies, tale en kulture.

Die Woordfeesprogram bied ’n ryk verskeidenheid van inspirasie aan skrywers, teater- en filmmakers, akteurs en klassieke en kontemporêre musikante. Dit is egter nie altyd vir kunstenaars moontlik of bekostigbaar om alles by te woon wat hulle graag sou wou beleef nie.

Met die nuwe Kunstenaarsbeurse bied die Woordfees vyf kunstenaars die geleentheid om hul kreatiewe batterye te herlaai en vanjaar se fees ten volle te beleef. Al wat die Woordfees van beurshouers verwag, is om ’n joernaal te hou waarin feeservaringe en menings oor bygewoonde produksies gedeel word.

’n Kunstenaarsbeurs sluit in:
- R5 000 vir reis en verblyf, wat die beurshouer kan aanwend na goeddunke
- twee etes per dag in die BBP-area vir ’n maksimum van vyf dae
- gratis bywoning van alle aanbiedings in dié genre waarin die beurshouer self kuns skep

Om in aanmerking te kom vir ’n beurs moet aansoekers die volgende voorlê:
- tussen 300 en 500 woorde oor hoekom dit vir die aansoeker as kunstenaar goed sal wees om die 2018 US Woordfees by te woon
- ’n verkorte CV van die aansoeker se kunstenaarsloopbaan met 2 referente

Stuur aansoeke voor of op 12 Februarie 2018 aan Danie Marais by

Let wel: Geen laat aansoeke sal oorweeg word nie en geen korrespondensie sal oor die toekenning van beurse gevoer word nie. Slegs kunstenaars wat op geen wyse by die US Woordfees 2018 betrokke is nie, kan aansoek doen vir ’n kunstenaarsbeurs.

Vir verder navrae, kontak Danie Marais by

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Artist Bursaries available for the SU Woordfees 2018

For artists, the Stellenbosch University Woordfees is more than excellent entertainment and food for thought. It is an experience where creative sparks fly – between art and audience, between concepts and ideas, and often between artists, generations, languages and cultures too.

The Woordfees festival programme offers a rich variety of inspiration for writers, theatre and film makers, actors and for classical as well as contemporary musicians. Artists, however, are not always able to afford festival attendance or to take in all the shows that pique their interest.

With its new Artist Bursaries initiative, the Woordfees offers five artists the opportunity to recharge their creative batteries and to fully experience the festival this year. All the Woordfees expects from bursary holders, is to share their festival experiences and their opinions on the shows they attended in a journal.

An Artist Bursary includes:
- R5 000 for travel and accommodation, to be used at the bursary holder’s discretion
- two meals per day in the VIP area for a maximum of five days
- free attendance of all productions/shows in the relevant genre, i.e. the genre in which the bursary holder is a practicing artist

In order to be considered for a bursary, applicants need to submit the following:
- between 300 and 500 words on why they will benefit from attending the 2018 SU Woordfees
- a short CV of the applicant’s artistic career with two references

Send applications to Danie Marais at by the 12th of February 2018.

Please note: No late applications will be considered and no correspondence regarding bursary decisions will be entered into. Only artists who are in no way involved with the SU Woordfees 2018, may apply for an Artist Bursary.

For further information, contact Danie Marais at

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Book Bites: 21 January

Published in the Sunday Times

100 Nasty Women of History
Hannah Jewell, Hodder & Stoughton, R315

Every feminist and generally decent person felt a severe pang of disappointment when Trump won the US elections. Hannah Jewell wrote 100 Nasty Women of History in retaliation for his calling Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman”. Open this book and learn the names and stories of some of history’s coolest “nasty” women – like the most successful pirate ever, or some of the many brilliant female poets forgotten over time. Be pleasantly surprised by the number of factors in today’s everyday life that have been shaped by women, like the technology used for Wi-Fi or the numbering system of 1, 2, 3. This light-hearted collection of brief biographies provides, in very crude language and colloquialisms, a small bit of justice every feminist needs. – Jessica Evans

I’ll Take the Sunny Side
Gordon Forbes, Bookstorm, R290

Gordon Forbes is best known for his tennis memoir A Handful of Summers, which decades on is still in print. In this new book he returns to the international tennis circuit of yesteryear, but he adds much more. Forbes belongs to a distinguished lunch club that meets once a month and includes such friends as the historian Charles van Onselen, columnist James Clarke and the author Richard Steyn. All are men of letters, all are of a certain age, and they ruminate and crack wise about politics, growing old and sport. From discussing the oysters on the buffet table, to the unseemly yowls of women tennis players to the best boots for the Otter Trail, this is a charming memoir of full lives and friendship. – Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

Future Home of the Living God
Louise Erdrich, Corsair, R295

Louise Erdrich has created a chilling dystopian thriller. In the spirit of The Handmaid’s Tale, women’s bodies are the central theme as Cedar and her family attempt to hide her pregnancy. Evolution has stalled, reversed, genetically malfunctioned, creating religious fervour and a national state of emergency. Women are being torn from their families, held captive, while the survival rate for birthing mothers plummets. This is a new beginning, where your friends may be your enemies, your postman a spy, and women are drafted in and forced to incubate embryos from a different age. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

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The managing director at Cover2Cover Books discusses SA’s publishing industry, literacy development in children and the joy of reading

Published in the Sunday World (21/01/2018), Daily Dispatch (22/01/2018), Herald (25/01/2018)

By Carla Lever

Palesa Morudu, managing director at Cover2Cover Books


What was your own personal journey to the world of writing and publishing? Why are books important to you?

My journey started with a book! Reading helped me to round out my understanding of how human beings interact with the planet, which sparked my interest in writing. In fact, I soon came to understand that readers make better writers. So books are important to me because they help me expand my knowledge about the world; they also help me be a better writer.

A recent global study placed South African literacy levels as the worst in the world, with 8 out of 10 grade fours being unable to read for meaning in any language. Are there any good examples of industry leaders responding to huge national challenge?

The recent PIRLS results were shocking. Perhaps this has the potential to galvanize a national effort to finally deal with what is essentially a national crisis. The Nal’ibali reading for pleasure campaign as well as the FunDza Literacy Trust are very important interventions to build on – take a look at their work and free resources online. However, to build a culture of reading, South Africa needs business and government to get on board on a massive scale to make sure that books are available in each and every household.

What will it take to get SA reading for enjoyment, not just for school?

It has to do with what the publishing industry puts out in the market. Readers want to see themselves in stories, and even better if the stories are well told. I’m excited by content that’s relevant locally but with themes that resonate universally.

You’ve said before that there’s huge potential in the South African market. Are there any special interest gaps you have identified and what kind of material is proving a success with these?

In 2010 Cover2Cover Books identified what we termed the “township teen” as big gap in the market. Apart from school textbooks, no one was writing for this large and exciting demographic. That translates to millions of teenagers not reading for pleasure because no one was writing for them. That same year we launched our flagship series ‘Harmony High,’ which is set in a fictional township high school. It has been a major hit, with thousands of previously reluctant readers now being hooked on the ten titles in its series. We are inundated with feedback from high-school teachers and librarians, whose students just can’t get enough. The formula is simple: the kids see themselves in the characters, the plots are pacy, there is tension and drama, and the stories are well written. We intend to scale up in 2018, working with our partner the FunDza Literacy Trust, to set up more township and rural reading clubs so we can get many more of our books to South African teens.

You’ve even been using social media to promote literacy through mobile reading clubs! Can you tell us a little about how you’re combining hard copy books and virtual worlds to get readers engaged?

FunDza runs “library on the mobile” programme. Because many young people are hooked on their mobile devices, what better way to bring them books and stories than on their favourite platform? FunDza downlaods some of Cover2Cover’s content on its mobisite and readers can access stories through the FunDza app on their mobile devices. It’s a great new way to engage and it ultimately means more people get to read in a way that works for them.

National Read Aloud Day is on 1 February and there are a range of exciting initiatives planned. How can people get involved?

Nal’ibali will go big on February 1 with a campaign to get South Africans to read aloud to one million children with the #WRADChallenge2018. I encourage everyone to take part in the campaign by going to, downloading the free story ‘The Final Minute’ especially written for the day by Zukiswa Wanner and pledging to read it to children on 1 February. It’s available in a range of South African languages, too!

Help Nal’ibali read aloud to one million children this World Read Aloud Day, Thursday 01 February! Visit the Nal’ibali webpage at to sign up and download the brand-new story by acclaimed South African author, Zukiswa Wanner, in any official South African language. You’ll be joining a wave of adults across the country reading to children and raising awareness of the importance of this simple yet effective activity.

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“If we truly care about our national matric pass rate, let’s direct our energies to ensuring children have a solid educational beginning” – managing director at Nal’ibali

By Jade Jacobsohn, managing director at Nal’ibali

Photo courtesy of Nal’

When the tide pulls back before a tsunami hits, they say that the beach is littered with beautiful starfish. Often people go down onto the beach and collect these star-shaped echinoderms, admiring their bright colours. In the distance, however the power of the ensuing wave builds.

Reading the newspapers recently as the results of the National Senior Certificate (matric) were released felt a little bit like watching those people on the beach, happily collecting starfish. 75.1% of learners who wrote the matric exams passed them. Our politicians cheered, and we celebrated the astounding triumphs of high-performing students – particularly those who achieved against all odds. Learners who were the first in their families to matriculate, who not only achieved multiple distinctions, but who will go on to study fields such as astrophysics. Learners who attended rural schools that didn’t have enough teachers for all subjects, but who aced the toughies like Mathematics and the Sciences.

These are bright and beautiful starfish indeed, but we would be wise to pay heed to the rising tide behind them and, importantly, what is happening on the ocean floor of South Africa’s education system causing the buildup.

There are already some who are cognizant of this cataclysmic wave made up of the learners who didn’t quite make it through. And it’s not only the 14.9% of Matrics who wrote but failed the exams that we are talking about here, it’s also the half-a-million odd learners who enrolled in Grade 1 twelve years ago and who didn’t even sit the exams that make up this looming watery mass.

But our matric-result infatuation needs to move even deeper than that. It needs to shift to the early years of a child’s life where the hardwiring for success, or failure, takes place.

Last year closed with the release of another set of education results; that eight out of ten nine-year-olds in South Africa are functionally illiterate, and that our children’s reading comprehension abilities scored lowest compared to the children in the 49 other countries that participated in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

It begs the obvious question: if children are unable to read, how are they able to meaningfully progress through the schooling system? According to PIRLS, 78% of our Grade 4s will be playing an exhausting game of constant catch-up.

If we truly care about our national matric pass rate (and what it means for the future of our country), let’s save ourselves a great deal of both effort and money by directing our energies to ensuring children have a solid educational foundation. We need to start at the beginning.

How about each year, we dissect this part of our society? Let’s become obsessed with early numeracy and literacy rates, and the creative ways in which they can be improved. Let’s become absorbed by the quality of teaching in preschools and primary schools, and find complimentary partnerships to ensure that all key areas for unlocking children’s potential are addressed: nurturing care, stimulation, nutrition and protection. Let’s become play-advocates – evangelising its central role in children’s learning. As a nation, let’s pledge to do whatever we can to see that children get to read for enjoyment so that books become less scary. Let’s invest in this phase of education that yields the highest rates of return, and then let’s monitor the progress of the education department, non-profits and other actors in this sector.

Finally, let’s dive right in to the ocean floor and see what other bright and beautiful starfish we can find. Those government officials who understand that poor early education exacerbates inequality and stifles economic potential. Those same officials who make sure classrooms are filled with books in children’s home languages as well as English, and who enforce policies that create opportunities for children to fall in love with reading.

Let’s raise up and celebrate the teachers, early childhood development practitioners, and every day South Africans whose efforts help turn the tide and contribute towards a future filled with employable youth, critical thinkers, empathetic citizens, and parents who are able to pass these early lessons on to their own children someday.

For more information about the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, free children’s stories in a range of SA languages, tips on reading and writing with children, details on how to set up a reading club or to request training, visit,, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Exclusive Books grants grandmother’s birthday wish – to lock her up (in style!) in a bookshop for the night

South Africa’s leading bookseller has rung in the new year on a particularly joyful note by fulfilling the life-long dream of Mrs Carina Greyling of Kempton Park, Johannesburg, who had, according to her four children, listed being “locked inside an Exclusive Books for the night” as her top birthday wish.

Greyling turned 60 on Sunday 7 January and saw her wish granted at Exclusive Books’ Hyde Park store, where she was surprised with a pop-up bedroom, snacks and drinks, and the freedom to roam the store all night, browsing and reading to her heart’s content.

“How could we resist obliging Mrs Greyling’s birthday wish, especially given that she and I share the same birth date?” said Benjamin Trisk, CEO of Exclusive Books. “We supplied all the creature comforts necessary for spending a night in a bookshop, and trust that her stay was everything she hoped for.”

Trisk received the request from Greyling’s daughter, Leeanne Jonsson, via email in early December 2017. The email asked for the booksellers’ help in “planning an epic birthday surprise”.

“My mom is turning 60 on the 7th Jan 2018. When we asked her what she wants for her EPIC birthday – she said that she just wants to be locked in an Exclusive Books for the evening, with a flask of coffee, a blanket and unlimited access to read as many books as possible,” Jonsson wrote. “Probably the weirdest birthday wish ever – but that’s what makes her unique!”

“Exclusive Books is known for pulling stunts like this on occasion for special customers,” said Trisk. “We’ve assisted with a number of in-store marriage proposals, for instance, and feel that accommodating Mrs Greyling – literally – was very much was in keeping with the overall spirit of our brand.”.

Mrs Greyling was escorted to the Exclusive Books store by her children at 9pm, unaware of the surprise that lay in wait. She was delighted by the final twist that her birthday celebration had taken.

“I’ve always said that when it’s my time to go I hope heaven has a book shop – and I think it might look a bit like this,” said Mrs Greyling.

Her bed and pillows were supplied by Exclusive Books’ fellow Hyde Park tenant, Vencasa, which also included a R2000 voucher toward a sleep consultation and a special Tempur therapeutic pillow.

The birthday grandmother also received a R1000 Exclusive Books voucher to spend on her favourite reads.

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