The next three books I will talk about in this blog contain extremely powerful stories of heroism and oppression yet all are very slim novels. These books make ideal reading for senior and middle Primary students. They show young children living in complex communities during times of injustice or war.
In Journey to Jo'burg we meet Naledi who lives in South Africa, the South Africa of apartheid. Her mother works in Johannesburg. This is three hundred miles from the family home. The three children are in the care of their grandmother. With their mother working so far from home it seems they rarely see her and her work for the rich white family is a mystery to the two older children until Dineo their baby sister falls ill. Naledi decided she and her brother Tiro need to get to Jo’burg and the only way to do this is to walk. Surprisingly, while the journey is long, they strike some good fortune firstly in the form of a place to stay the night near an orange farm and later when they are given a lift in a truck to a place quite near their mothers work place. This luck continues when they meet Grace Mbatha. Grace’s mother works quite near Mma.
“There it stood, a great pink house with its own grass lawn and trees in front, even its own road leading up to the front door!” The Madam reluctantly gives Mma permission to go home to Dineo but she must work for one more night and so the children are returned to the care of Grace. It is at this point their journey becomes very frightening when the two children find themselves separated from Grace and stranded on a railway platform with police angrily checking for identity cards.
My copy of Journey to Jo’burg has an excellent introduction by Michael Rosen and this is made even more special because both Michael Rosen and Beverley Naidoo are speaking at the IBBY congress in London. There is also a "More than the story" section at the back with the letter that shows this book was once banned. Read more here. If you click this link you will also see the whole range of different covers which have been used for this book. I find cover design a fascinating area - the appeal of covers to different groups of readers in different cultures.
Journey to Jo’burg was first published 1987. I do hope it might still be in print because this is such an accessible story which allows young readers to glimpse this oppressive regime and perhaps make some sense of this important time in world history. I also found some excellent teaching notes.