Slowly! Slowly! by T. M. Clark, ill Helene Magisson

Bongani stood tall.
‘Dad, am I big enough? Am I higher than the hyena? Can I go to school?’
‘No, my son. But today you can look after the crops. Chase the animals away.’

Bongani is desperate to go to school, but he’s too small. His father has another job for him. He can protect the crops from the cunning crows and the marching monkeys. He does his jobs but would rather be at school with his cousins. His grandfather, seeing his sadness, tells him that his cousins will never have the chance to catch a monkey. Despite his sadness, Bongani is intrigued. Slowly, slowly, says his grandfather. That’s how you catch a monkey. Illustrations are in pencil and watercolour in rich greens and blues, purples and oranges.

It’s a terrible thing to be too small to do what you want to do, when growing is taking too long. Bongani is keen to go to school but he is too small. His father sets him a task to keep him occupied but it is his grandfather who diverts him and teaches him how to catch a monkey. It is Bongani, however, who makes his own decisions once a monkey is caught. Grandfather’s gentleness and instructions allow Bongani to learn how to catch a monkey, and then to learn the consequences of the catching. A lovely story of family and learning. An interpretation of a traditional African tale, ‘Slowly! Slowly!’ will appeal to pre- and early-schoolers.

Slowly! Slowly! T. M. Clark ill Helene Magisson
Wombat Books 2017
ISBN: 9781925563221

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Figgy Takes the City by Tamsin Janu

Nana was writing so quickly that he kept breaking the lead of his pencils.
But he didn’t sharpen them. That takes time.
To sharpen a pencil we have to go outside, because Principal Mensah doesn’t like pencil shavings on the classroom floor. Which is confusing, since chickens wander into the classroom and poo on the ground all the time and she never complains about that. We also have to sharpen pencils with little metal razors, which takes a lot of effort. And sometimes, when you are sharpening too quickly, the razor will cut your finger. So there is blood, and you have to go to the teacher for a plaster, and by the time you get back to your desk the test is nearly over and the cut on your finger hurts so much you cannot write anyway.
So Nana came prepared.

Figgy is back and in this third Figgy (and Nana story), the friends both win scholarships to the high school in Accra. Figgy is initially very nervous but quickly settles in and is keen to absorb all the experiences that a city can offer. Nana, however, has more trouble and Figgy can’t make him talk about what’s worrying him. Or where he disappears to. Cities are strange and wonderful, dangerous and sad. This year is going to change them forever.

Figgy Takes the City’ follows ‘Figgy in the World’ and ‘Figgy and the President’ and continues the story of Figgy, a Ghanian village girl with a big heart, a wonderful imagination and enough love to wrap the whole world. These adventures introduce the reader to Ghana, village and city life, to dilemmas unimaginable and familiar. The definition of ‘family’ expands and then expands again. What is family after all but individuals looking after others? Figgy and her friends are warm, fallible, true-hearted and brave. This is another adventure that should find a home in every heart. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Figgy Takes the City, Tamsin Janu Scholastic 2017 ISBN: 9781742992006
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Meet My Book: A Savage Garden, by Chris Muir

Today I’m delighted to welcome Chris Muir to the blog. Chris is here to introduce his new book, A Savage Garden. Welcome Chris.

Chris Muir


1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

2. Why did you write the book?
In many ways it was a book that had to be written. Africa is a very easy place to fall in love with, but it’s also very easy to hate the wars, corruption, greed and violence that’s endemic right across Central Africa and more particularly in the lawless wilds of Democratic Republic of the Congo where A Savage Garden is set. I’ve been there many times. I’ve seen what goes on. The world had to know, but for the most part there’s a great deal of apathy about Africa so I’ve wrapped up a very important subject in an adventure thriller. I hope readers will find it thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

3. How long from idea to publication?
The first draft was written 7 years ago when the Congo was having its first democratic election in over 40 years. It looked like a glimmer of hope…it wasn’t. 21 rewrites and 2.1million words later I had a 90,000 word version that my agent, Jenny Darling, was able to sell to Random House….so to answer your question, it’s been 7 years from idea to publication.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
Writing it was the easy part. I knew my subject intimately, I had authentic situations based on fact, and if I do say so myself the writing wasn’t too bad, but getting the deal was the hard part. I guess for a first time author it always is.

5. Coolest thing about your book?
There’s nothing quite like when your publisher hands you the first copy. You forget about all the hard work and when no one is looking you stroke that 354 pages like it was a new born child.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
This whole exercise has been an amazing lesson in patience, faith and perseverance and hoping that if I keep at it one day someone would say…hey, this is pretty good. Fortunately they did.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?
There’s a launch party on February 11th where I’ll celebrate with 150 family and friends but the real celebration is inside my head. When Jenny Darling rang me and told me about the deal she thought that I would be excited, and I was, but mostly I felt an enormous sense of relief. I’d been waiting so long for it to happen. I knew it would and it had. I’ll celebrate when the sales figures come in and by writing another book.

8. And how will you promote the book?
The publicity people at Random House and right behind this but first timers always have a hard road to hoe. I’ll be using social media, launches, library tours, media interviews and point-of-sale.

9. What are you working on next?
My next book is another adventure thriller set in Somalia. Let me tell you, Somalia is one scary place…it’s no wonder that it has been dubbed ‘the most dangerous country on the planet’.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
At the Random House website here
Twitter: @chrismuirwriter
Facebook: chris.muir.9256

Congratulations Chris, and thanks for dropping by.

A Savage Garden is available now in good bookstores and online.