Allison's Book Bag

Great Men Come from Humble Beginnings

Posted on: March 6, 2013

Malusi is a herd boy. It is a big job for a small boy, yet he does it well, no matter the danger. But he also dreams of being something more than a herd boy someday: Malusi wants to be president.

The above description comes from the inside flap of The Herd Boy, a picture book from South African author Niki Daly, which The International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) included on its 2013 list for best international books. All of the titles on its list originated or were first published in a country other than the United States and then subsequently published or distributed in the United States. These books not only represent the best in children’s literature from around the globe, but also introduce American readers to other perspectives.


Niki Daly considers himself foremost an illustrator. According to an interview at Mail & Guardian, what inspires Daly when he writes books are the drawings. Moreover, he does not write for adults because there are no illustrations in their books. Daly’s work is recognized worldwide and has earned him some of the most prestigious prizes for children’s literature.

Born and raised in a working-class family, Daly has lived in Cape Town, South Africa, for most of his life. According to his biography in Macmillan, one of Daly’s favorite themes is the solitary child who discovers self-worth with the help of an adult. Daly also believes that his working-class background influences him to champion the causes of the have-nots in his books. “I hope that my books have soul—which suggests that I adhere to values that are not purely material.” In an interview with Just Imagine, Daly says that he found his voice in South Africa. There, he could be himself.

For further information about Niki Daly, read these interviews:


The text indicates Malusi lives in a hut near hills and that he looks after his grandfather’s sheep and goats. He keeps the sheep and goats from straying towards the deep donga (steep ravine caused by erosion) and safe from troops of baboons. While the sheep graze, he must also collect dung to give to the local shopkeeper to add to the soil in his garden. With his friend, Lungisa, he likes to play two-man football and stick fight.

Occasionally, Daly uses South African terms. All of these are defined in the context of the story and/or in the glossary.

The illustrations compliment the text, except for one spread. Daly writes, “Slowly, the back window opens and an old man with a face lined as the krans smiles at them.” (Krans means overhanging cliff face.) One might guess from the illustration that the man is Nelson Mandela, who also came from a rural background. If one doesn’t, the note from the author near the back of the book will help. Here is a sample page from The Herd Boy:



As you might have noticed, I found several sites with information about the author. However, I couldn’t find any way to contact Daly, but I am still hoping to interview some of the multicultural authors whom I feature. I’ll let you know!

When it came to small grassland towns in South Africa, images which I found online suggest that illustrations are accurate. As for blogs or websites on South Africa literature for young people, which might help me better evaluate the multicultural aspect of The Herd Boy, I found one site: Book Chat. Its creator was a primary school teacher for sixteen years in South Africa. Jay Heale was also a founder member of the South African Children’s Book Forum (SACBF) and was largely instrumental in South Africa becoming a member country of International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). He positively reviewed The Herd Boy.

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