cover image The Herd Boy

The Herd Boy

Niki Daly. Eerdmans, $17 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5417-9

Malusi has a blue hat, a red blanket, and a difficult job: trying to keep his grandfather's sheep and goats safe from baboons. He has to watch for snakes and prevent his animals from falling into the ravine. "You have to be awake, and you have to be brave, to be a herd boy," writes Daly (Pretty Salma). Malusi also has a dream: he wants to be president, and when Nelson Mandela's car happens to drive by (it seems surprisingly believable), Mandela tells Malusi that he was once a herd boy himself. "Ah, a boy who looks after his herd will make a very fine leader. Sala kahle [stay well], Mr. President." While the episode is imagined, the message is clearly one of hope; Daly gives children like Malusi reason to believe that, despite their humble circumstances, they, too, can aspire to the nation's highest office. And Daly's portrait of rural South African life%E2%80%94the growls of baboons, the taste of maize porridge, and the view of the village enclosure from above%E2%80%94gives his story an almost cinematic dimension. Ages 6%E2%80%9310. (Oct.)