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The Herd Boy    by Niki Daly order for
Herd Boy
by Niki Daly
Order:  USA  Can
Eerdmans, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Niki Daly's The Herd Boy is an oversized, full-two-page spread of bright beautiful colors. Her text is set in large, clear letters, relating the story of a young boy who is the caretaker of his grandfather's herd of sheep and goats. As Mama calls to her son, Malusi to wake up, 'a red rim of sunlight appears along the surrounding hills, then turning to gold as it rises and starts warming the Village.'

Malusi calls to the herd with 'shrill whistling' as he drives them to the grazing slopes, careful to avoid unseen puffadders coiled and dozing in the heat. Malusi must take care that the sheep and goats do not fall into the deep donga. The herds are a big responsibility for a young boy, requiring wakefulness and bravery.

Malusi soon hears the bark of his friend Lungisa's dog Koko. The friends play two-man football and stick-fight as the animals graze. Malusi's older sister Zolika brings them lunch of umvubo and mielie pap. The boys discuss what they aspire to when they grow up - Lungisa will play football for Bafana Bafana, while Malusi says 'I'm going to be president', even though his friend laughs at him.

Malusi never takes his attention away from watching over the herds as he knows that baboons are a danger to the younger animals. When a lamb is injured, Malusi brings the animal to his grandfather for tending. Along the way, the boys see a large automobile approaching. The car driver stops and an elderly man in the back seat talks to the boys about their hopes and dreams.

A Note from the Author tells us: 'Many great men come from humble beginnings ... A great and much-loved man of our own time, former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, also came from a humble, rural background ... a herd boy from the village of Qunu in the Transkei ... So, I ask, 'What is there in the life of a herd boy that would help prepare him to become the shepherd of a nation?''

Niki Daly's The Herd Boy is a tender, loving story of a young boy who takes his responsibilities and dreams to heart. Daly, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, is the award-winning author of other children's books such as Ruby Sings the Blues. I recommend this story for all young readers, to dream along with Malusi.

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