When I was asked to read “The Brave Little African Girl” by Thabitha Mathabatha I was intrigued by the story as it is a story of strength, unconditional love, how to cope with loss, grief and depression, in a book for children.
Set in the jungle of Pretoria, South Africa this story follows Fofo, a brave and curious eight-year-old girl who wants to explore by herself, just in the same way that her brothers can. It is one of the most dangerous places in the world but for an innocent child it is a place of beautiful wonder to explore, and one where the dangers of the jungle are not fully understood by young children.
Fofo always goes off to play with her older brothers and cannot go off without them. But she is a curious and independent child who wants to explore the rest of the jungle. One day she tells her brothers she is not going off to play as she isn’t feeling well. When they leave, she sneaks out of the house to explore the jungle and a natural spring at the foot of a mountain. When she gets there, she hears some strange noises and finds a lion in distress. Despite growing up in the jungle she had never seen a real-life lion, just pictures of them at school. But this lion was in the process of giving birth and not doing well. She helps to deliver the cub and takes it home with her, much to her aunt’s surprise and horror. She loves and cares for the cub, but she understands that the cub has to be returned to the jungle. Once the cub is returned to its natural habitat, Fofo gets depressed and her schoolwork starts to suffer. With the help of her family, the village community and ultimately her teachers at school they help her through the tough times of depression, loss and grief.
Overall, this is a fascinating little book to help children understand grief and loss and the depression that comes with it. It also shows the importance of teachers (they do much more than just teach) and the support they can give. It also shows how “it takes a village to raise a child” with the loving support of family, friends and neighbours.
Whilst it is described as a picture book for children, I wouldn’t say that it is a picture book as less than a third of the book is taken up with pictures. It has 9 full-page pictures that are very well drawn and illustrate the story very well.
The story is approx. 30 pages in length so it a quick read, but gets the message of grief and depression across in a way that children will understand and in a way that will help parents and carers support children dealing with depression.
The Brave Little African Girl is a nice little story dealing with very strong topics in a child-friendly way. A story of loss, emotions and sadness showing how important love and support from loved ones and teachers is to overcoming depression. It is hard to write a review of a very emotive topic as people deal with grief in very different ways, but I think this book handles it in a very good empathic and sensitive way.
RRP: £6.95 (Paperback / Kindle)
Available to buy from Amazon here.