Sunday, March 17, 2019

Blazing a trail: 'Halala Winner' mixes languages in children's book

Is it possible to write a book in more than one language? And it is it a good idea? Also, would a kid’s book which makes use of a seamless plaiting of two languages work?

Starting with the second question, there'll always be the purists who will frown on using more than one language. At the same time, using more than one language (simultaneously) is part of SA reality. In Johannesburg and other cities, people frequently switch from one language to another in telling a story. They also switch between languages in the same sentence. As South Africans when we hear such mixing, we don’t fall over in shock; instead, we hardly bat an eyelid. And thus, mirroring this reality, we have language mixing in poems; we encounter it on the theatre stage and we have the phenomenon of 'Scamto'.

So, of course, let's welcome a children’s book in more than one language (in the same book). This is just what Cover2Cover books have done. It has published Halala Winner, a 40-page story book, most likely targeted at kids in the first three grades of school. The writer is Jabulani Kunye.

In the story, Sibulele  an endearing boy with a big heart ─ starts at a new school, the typical story of the new kid on the playground overlaid with a ‘Jim Comes to Big City’ angle. He is teased for sounding different and because he comes from out of town. The “Funky Boys” turn up the heat also, demanding that he brings some lunch for them each day. He is sad but ─ with the help of his friend Anele ─  sticks it out. In the end, an opportunity arises where he can show one of his skills, and through it, rescue another schoolboy. He is carried shoulder high by other learners, and indications are that he will no longer be an outsider at the school nor an easy target for the bully boys.

This is more than an illustrated story; using a cartoon style of drawing, it is a picture book complete with speech bubbles, thought balloons and some exaggerated action shots. The fact that the drawings so closely track the ‘action’ helps the reader understand unfamiliar words. In addition, the broad framework (the action and the plot) carry the reader forward, providing a context in which the reader can figure out what new words mean.  

Halala Winner shows it can be done: it is possible to deploy a mix of languages (in the same text) to tell great kids’ stories. With it, Cover2Cover seems to be testing the waters – seeing how the idea works with and how it is received by wider audiences. According to the publisher's notes, Halala is part of a series (titled My World, My Words) that “celebrate(s) the multilingual realities of most South Africans.” Cover2Cover says the stories are developed with the input of young people. It refers the way it uses languages in these children’s books as translanguaging, a good term for academics but an awful term for the rest of us. If Halala Winner is anything to go by, we can look forward to more relevant and entertaining stories in the series.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Poetics of love

Love is

Love
is the universe
holding you
in a
scuffed palm

Love is
rounding a corner
in a harsh and stony landscape;
a blaze of flowers; black, red, blue, orange
brambled and bright

 ***

Love 

Enjoy
Like hummus & fresh pita
like chickpea rissole
like Vietnamese coffee
like mama’s onion quiche
like walk on beach
like yoga
like sunset seen from Slangkop
like a mighty laugh

      ***

Liefde

Vonke
in die duister 
in die fluister
van spelonke

Syne van die nag
bewaar my
ook in
die skadu van hierdie helder dag

Liefde sorg dat ek
(na weerlig en tranestort)
met juig en lag, weerens
uit kan strek

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

India: walking with the swami

aour teacher waited
for me / for us
at tiger's rock, jamalpur

here, long ago, the walk 
with the venerable master
grew to edges of the sky
to the hem 
of infinity

further inland: at ananda nagar
a large tract of land
‘vibrating rocks.’ the swami says
place of hope and aspiration
being present and connected
amid sweltering heat
dwellings of cow-dung bricks
hold
against nature

at the ashram
cleansing steps: wash feet and arms in ‘half bath’
tin doors clang
mosquito nets willow and billow 
heat quivers and water dries quickly 
wind sips 
from squirting shower

a small girl with krishna eyes 
red dot on brow, small hands
the aunty's helping hand;
a smile as she colours the stoep
a deep red

this is how 
we made our way

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cascade


tackling the unworked seams
smiles and scars and puckered flesh
and further down the gradient
slow streams meet    
in patient cascade

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Deep


for Bra Ray Phiri

pluck the strings
amid the mkhukhus & tenements
along billboard-littered motorways, by grubby streams
via grass-topped homesteads
wending, winding, entwining, splicing
woven thread. the fabrics
from the sinews of the ancient folk
that still adorn
the broken school, chisanyama, spaza shop, the crafter's shed

pick the notes, brother
amid the jazz wizards, who cluster and eddy
faces floating in moonlit pools
the instruments, blackened walls, beer-stained tables
bitten fingers, chewed-out gum
standing by
the faces & barely-tied laces
present, struck, restless but unhurried
grainy as the blues

strum, brother, strum
a soothing embrace
to accompany those troubled dreams.
for seekers
that melody, coursing
like the fierce waters of the zambezi waterfall
along fault-lines & edges of love & broken skin &
cracked smiles

those visionary
gyrations
those sounds with lips, tongue & vital throat
that body with notes
      spurting forth
      from grey rocks, hard sands, volcanic rock, silt, carbon

your guitar wails, sighs & sings
dances in the aisles
till we hear our own voice
hoarse
calling out
from the deep

Saturday, April 21, 2018

New kids' story: Teacher Owl's Class

Just like my other children's stories, Teacher Owl's Class features the animals of Africa.

In this tale, while other learners play and do other interesting things, Snail learns something new about her family.

See the story here: https://tinyurl.com/yabjzc3q

Frank Meintjies

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Children's story: Elephants encounter lions and fire on their journey

In this story, the elephants encounter lions and a runaway fire on their journey.



Frank Meintjies

(This story may be copied and used for educational purposes. It should be used with author acknowledgement and, if the attached/linked version is used, due acknowledgment of the creators of the illustrations.)