Allison's Book Bag

The Herd Boy by Niki Daly

Posted on: March 7, 2013

The Herd Boy is about Malusi, a young boy in rural South Africa who takes care of sheep and goats for his grandfather, and wishes to grow up to be a president. By writing a captivating narrative about the typical routines and harrowing adventures that a herd boy might face on any given day, author and illustrator Niki Daly both educates readers about the life of a herd boy and pays tribute to this livelihood.

Daly was born and raised in South Africa, has a working-class background, and likes to champion the cause of the lower class. His detailed watercolor artwork sensitively captures South African village life. It also vividly depicts both the beauty and harshness of the grasslands where Malusi lives. Adding to the cultural experience of his picture book, Daly also incorporates South African terms, all of which are defined in the context of the story and/or in the glossary.

Daly encourages a strong work ethic with sentiments such as: “You have to be awake and you have to be brave to be a herd boy.” Other scenes also reinforce this work ethic, such as when Malusi observes two columns of termites on the march, and declares they are such hard workers—all working together. Then there is the highlight of Malusi’s day, when a shiny new car stops, the back window opens, and an older man, whom readers might recognize as Nelson Mandela, asks Malusi and his friends what they want to be when they grow up. Upon learning of Malusi’s wish to become president, Mandela replies, “Ah, a boy who looks after his herd will make a very fine leader.” The author’s note near the back reveals that other great men came from humble starts: King David, the prophet Mohammed, and even former President Nelson Mandela. What a great message to instill hope in young readers!

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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