cover image Themba


Margaret Sacks. Dutton Books, $12 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-525-67414-6

The day has finally come for Themba's father, a poor South African farm hand, to return home from the gold mines where he has worked for the past three years. When Pa does not appear according to schedule, Themba hitches a ride to Queenstown, hoping his father will be on the next train from Johannesburg. The city offers the youngster new, exciting and sometimes frightening experiences. The boy's naivete nearly gets him in trouble, but Pa shows up in the nick of time and safely escorts his son home. This easy-to-read novel, which balances disturbing events with heartwarming episodes, provides a brief yet significant introduction to modern South African culture. Without coming off as moralistic, Sacks ( Beyond Safe Boundaries ) manages to convey the poverty of villagers and the separation of classes. Her concise, unencumbered prose and Clay's lively, atmospheric illustrations prove to be a winning combination. Ages 7-10. (Oct.)