Mpumi is a young, fun-loving, warm-hearted South African girl who lives in Johannesburg. In these two delightful picture books, aimed at children ages 5-10, we discover more about her, her city and her friends. Both titles are available in all of South Africa’s 11 languages; Mpumi and Jabu’s Magical Day is also available in French.
Mpumi’s Magic Beads*
Mpumi’s Magic Beads opens with Mpumi and two friends at school in the city. It’s breaktime and the girls are bored; they have nowhere to go. As Mpumi sighs and twirls her braids, the girls admire each other’s hair. Mpumi’s hair is braided and beaded, Asante has plaits and Tshiamo sports an afro. It’s a simple celebration of black hair; then something happens that makes it extra special.
The beads jingle and jangle and sparkle.
Mpumi’s beads have magical powers that whisk the girls out of school and high above the city. Boredom is forgotten as they embark on a whistle-stop tour of some of Johannesburg’s main attractions: the zoo, the planetarium and a theme park. Lebohang Masango’s lively rhyming verse and Masego Morulane’s vibrant illustrations beautifully convey the young girls’ energy and excitement as they explore their surrounds.
It’s all going well until another girl’s mean words about Mpumi’s hairstyle put a stop to their fun, leaving them stranded above the city streets. Mpumi is deeply hurt. A temporary break in the rhyme and downcast faces in the illustrations cleverly reinforce the change in pace and outlook. But readers will be lifted—as Mpumi is—by the reassurance and support of her close friends. And another burst of bead magic.
Mpumi’s Magic Beads is a celebration of friendship, beautiful black hair and the delights to be discovered in—and above—Johannesburg.
Mpumi and Jabu’s Magical Day*
Mpumi stars in a second heartwarming picture book alongside Jabu, a young Deaf boy. Written in rhyme by Lebohang Masango and Claudine Storbeck, Professor at the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, this title draws attention to the importance of communication, friendship and acceptance. And, as in Mpumi’s Magic Beads, there’s a touch of magic in the air, too!
When Mpumi spots Jabu behind a tree, hesitant to join the other children in the playground, she calls out to him. Momentary confusion ensues on both sides when it becomes evident that Jabu has not heard her. The young pair partially resolve the situation with smiles and waves, then sit down and laugh together. Mpumi soon learns that Jabu, who wears noticeable hearing aids in both ears, communicates in sign language. She asks him to teach her.
It is the start of a beautiful friendship that sees the two children play together in the park and introduce each another to their circles of friends. (There’s some flying above the city involved here, too!) The story also provides readers with a simple, positive introduction to sign language.
My new friend taught me how to talk with my hands. He’s wonderful and so clever.
I particularly like the call to action by Mpumi, Jabu and friends at the end of the story, inviting readers to sign. The South African Sign Language alphabet is featured in the end pages, making it easy for everyone to have a go at signing their name.
Mpumi and Jabu’s Magical Day shows young readers that we are more similar than different, and that communication methods are no barrier to acceptance and true friendship.
*Review copies of both books were kindly provided by author Lebohang Masango.
Mpumi’s Magic Beads
Written by Lebohang Masango
Illustrated by Masego Morulane
New Africa Books, 2019
You can purchase the book here.*
Awards: 2019 Exclusive Books IBBY SA Picture Book Award for Best Writer; 2019 South African Literary Award for Children’s Literature; Pendoring.20 Winner
Mpumi & Jabu’s Magical Day
Written by Lebohang Masango and Claudine Storbeck
Illustrated by Elizabeth Goode
New Africa Books, 2020
You can purchase the book here.*
Enjoy a reading of Mpumi’s Magic Beads by author Lebohang Masango:
Laura Taylor is the founder of world children’s literature blog Planet Picture Book. She is a small business copywriter, NAATI-certified translator of French into English and member of AUSIT. When she is not writing, she is reading, and chasing after her two young children. She tweets regularly @plapibo and posts at www.planetpicturebook.com