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Skipping Stones Honor Award Winner 2021
An empowering picture book from South Africa about a young girl who overcomes endless teasing
Meet Wanda, with her beautiful head full of hair. She is brave and strong, but she's unhappy because of the endless teasing by the boys at school for her "thorn bush" and "thunderstorm cloud." Through Grandma Makhulu's hair secrets and stories she finds the courage to face her fears and learn to appreciate that her hair is a crown‚ "not a burden‚" and it is something to be proud of. This book is about identity and beauty, celebrating how cultural pride is learned and passed on over generations.
About the Author
Sihle Nontshokweni is a PhD candidate at KU Leuven, South Africa. Her research is focused on the successes and failures of school desegregation in post-apartheid South Africa. Prior to that, she lived in China, completing a master's at Peking University, where she studied the aspirations of African migrant entrepreneurs living in Guangzhou, south of China. She has a deep interest in how racialized contexts affect identity and aspirations. Sihle is an avid reader and is passionate about creating positive content through YouTube and her personal blog sihlesapplecrunch.com. She is a lover of adventure and fitness, having completed a marathon and the popular Cape Cycle Tour.
Mathabo Tlali was born and bred in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and has the yearning to understand and engage the thoughts and realities of others through various artistic and digital platforms. A thespian at heart, she is a practitioner who currently engages the form of contemporary performance in order to translate her ideas; writing, directing, physical performance and producing are her key areas of interest. She is currently completing her second undergraduate major in sociology at Rhodes University, after completing her primary major, drama and performance studies. She seeks to explore intersectional ways of connectivity between the past, present and future, more so pertaining to identity politics within the performance and academic space.
Chantelle and Burgen Thorne are internationally published illustrators with over 20 years’ experience in educational publishing. Their focus is picture books for children with several more titles being released internationally this year, because the magic of children’s books is that they’re not just for kids. Avid bookworms themselves, they take great delight in the visual storytelling of picture books, art and text working together, every word and every image adding to the reader’s experience. Both have fond memories of being read to as children and this inspires them to make their illustrations as engaging, honest and relevant to young readers as they possibly can—what a wonderful way to spend one’s working day!
“An affirmation of Afro hair that speaks to Black girls all over the African diaspora … With a bright color palette of yellow, pink, blue, aqua, and green, this story highlights Wanda’s positive female relationships and role models and helps her understand who she is in a broader cultural context. This story also addresses systemic racism rooted in the apartheid system that lingers today in South African schools. A fine addition to the expanding body of picture books about Afro hair.”
“Uplifting … Chantelle and Burgen Thorne’s striking illustrations capture intimate scenarios in bright colors. A worthy … celebration of Afro-textured crowns that simultaneously exposes how Black children are sometimes penalized for their textured hair. Ages 4–8.”
“Set in South Africa, this affecting story carries themes of bullying, self-confidence, and familial love that extend beyond geographic borders. Detailed illustrations capture the different textures of characters’ hair and Wanda’s fiercely felt emotions, while the tropical palette of seafoam, mango, and hot pink keeps the tone lifted as Wanda learns to proudly wear her crown.”
“[T]his book offers an international perspective on acceptance and celebration of different kinds of beauty that could complement similar titles in all collections … The colorful illustrations not only depict the story’s events but also express Wanda’s shifting thoughts and emotions that affect her self-image. The back matter explains ‘Intombi mayizithembe’—an African proverb that means, ‘A young girl must always remain confident.’”