Allison's Book Bag

A Tale from Africa!

Posted on: January 13, 2012

Back in November, I received an email request that went like this: “The Cadence Group is currently seeking reviewers for a great YA title newly released to North American markets.” In light of my hopes of diversifying what I reviewed, this sounded intriguing. The new title? A book called The Meerkat Wars by H.S. Toshack.

When I read this author’s biography, short as it is on Amazon, I felt an even greater interest. Basically, like many authors, he has worked in the educational world. However, unlike many authors, his line of work took him to the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, Africa, Thailand and the Middle East. He now lives and writes in Portugal. How could I resist?

As for The Meerkat Wars, it is set in Africa. That alone makes for a different read. H.S. Toshack spent ten years there, going on many free-range safaris. How then did he come to write a story with a household cat as heroine? The answer to that is worthy of a new section.


Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecologi...

Image via Wikipedia

H.S. Toshack enjoyed writing his three ‘Paka Mdogo’ books, because they took him back to Africa. They also brought Sheena alive for him again. For the same reason, I have written storybooks about my two guinea pigs. Although I have never followed those up with tales about my family’s dog or cat, pets did inspire me while writing educational plays for our animal shelter. Have you ever written stories about your pets? If you haven’t, what moments could you share?

The Meerkat Wars

On the surface, The Meerkat Wars is about an adventurous household cat and her encounters with meerkats. If you dig deeper, you’ll find the book is about deeper issues. In an interview at Pick of the Literate, H.S. Toshack shares that The Meerkat Wars began with a great unhappiness. He would watch and read the news (about Palestine, about Egypt, about Bahrain), and ask: “Why do we do these things to each other?”


Image by paddynapper via Flickr

“Because we see other ethnic groups, other cultures, people with other beliefs, as very different from us,” he would answer.

Then last year another voice inside himself said: “But they aren’t, really.” And so he began to hear this story from Sheena about the time she befriended the Duwara, a meerkat tribe, and found they were at war with the Utongo, a rival tribe for several reasons. None of these seemed to justify the terrible things they were doing to each other and so Sheena decided to do something about that.

Classroom Connection

If you’re an educator, you might be interested to know that curriculum guides exist for the  ‘Paka Mdogo’ books:

Check back during the week for teasers. Then return on the weekend for my review. You know the drill. 🙂

On Sunday, I’ll also feature my second only guest post. The first came from Laura Toffler-Corrie, way back last January. Seems as if guest posts have been an annual occurrence.

Save the dates: January 14-15!

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