On this blog you will find NEWS about
writing and illustrating Children's Books, the society and its members and activities as well as links to websites and blogs about Children's Books

A website to visit regularly!


An independent, non-profit website that seeks to promote South African children’s literature.

This is achieved by:

  • A growing database aimed to include all indigenous children’s books (so far containing details of more than 2 200 books) with search facilities;
  • News of local children’s book events;
  • Details of South African children’s book awards;
  • Lists of recommended books in different age groups and categories;
  • “Thoughts by Jay” – a new feature containing a monthly essay by Jay Heale on an aspect of our local youth literature scene. Accessible on

With kind premission from Jay the “Thoughts by Jay” article was reprinted from Bookchat website

Thoughts on


By Jay Heale
Quite rightly, at the AGM of IBBY SA in August, attention was drawn to recent book awards in the field of children’s literature. Wendy Hartmann, Marjorie van Heerden and Johan van Heerden as author, illustrator and translator respectively of Nina and Little Duck had received the MER Prize; S. A. Partridge’s youth novel The Goblet Club was a winner of the “I am a writer!” competition; Piet Grobler had received three out of four of the recently presented (back dated) Katrine Harries Awards for illustration.

It was fitting that these book creators should receive an extra round of applause because there is precious little publicity concerning any of these book prizes. It’s like a pat on the back in the dark. What South Africa needs is recognition for its authors and illustrators.

Yes, we all know that Literacy is essential for our children – and apparently for our adult town councillors as well. But once they – young or old – possess the ability to read, only one thing is going to keep them reading: suitably relevant books created with quality. That means Literature.

There are two highly publicised international prizes for children’s literature. The longest established is the Hans Christian Andersen Award, presented by IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) biennially to an author and an illustrator for their whole body of work. It is often called “The Little Nobel Prize” and it confers a gold medal but no financial reward. The newer award is the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, administered by the Swedish Arts Council and “may be awarded to authors, illustrators, narrators and/or promoters of reading whose work reflects the spirit of Astrid Lindgren”. The prize is worth about US$ 790,000.

We can be proud that South African authors and illustrators (and even a few book promoters like Biblionef) have been nominated for both these awards. Our work in this field is definitely of sufficient quality. Why haven’t we had a sniff at either of them? I think it’s because something is missing in this country – a national award that says clearly “South African considers that quality children’s literature is important”. Mark you, if cabinet ministers are as good at reading as town councillors, that’s hardly surprising.

UK has the highly publicised Carnegie awards; the USA trumpets aloud the Newbery winners; in Canada there is an annual Governor General’s Prize for the best Canadian children’s book of the year. What interest does the South African government take in the national children’s literature? None.

Joy Cowley is a popular and successful children’s author in New Zealand. Here are a few of the recognitions she has received: Commemoration Medal for services to New Zealand; Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to children’s literature; A W Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature; Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. There is an author who has been (justly) recognised for her contributions. There is no similar award on offer in South Africa.

Why can’t we have a President’s Book Award or a Minister’s Book Medal or a South African Children’s Book of the Year with money attached? Most of our few book awards are given by publishers. Praise to the new Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award (started last year) which does offer some money and a bit of useful publicity. But such a prize doesn’t do enough to raise the status of children’s literature in South Africa. That’s what I’m after – on behalf of the authors and illustrators (and translators) who work with such skill and dedication for so little recognition.

Is there anyone “up there” reading this?

Jay Heale – September 2008

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