During WorldKidLit month, I read an interview with the fabulous team at Not Another Book Podcast where they recommended a number of books, including Sleep Well, Sibi and Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra van Doorn. They also mentioned the Sooo Many Stories initiative in Uganda. I decided it was high time I explored this east-central African country!
Sooo Many Stories, I found out, was initially set up as a blog by Nyana Kakoma to show readers that Ugandan writers have a wealth of wonderful tales to tell. It is also the driving force behind The Fireplace Tot Tales, a monthly book club which aims to promote a love of reading amongst children aged 4-12. Now a fledgling publishing house (as well), Sooo Many Stories recently put out a call for submissions of ‘fun, innovative and mind-stimulating’ children’s stories from Ugandan writers. Sooo, watch their space!
40 Days Over 40 Smiles, a youth-led charity organisation based in Uganda’s capital Kampala, also has a keen focus on children’s literature. This year, through their Angaza Literacy Program they published four children’s books written by Ugandan authors under the theme ‘For the Children We Were.’ You can read a review of the series on their website.
Book Aid International has been active in Uganda since 1963, and works in partnership with National Library of Uganda (NLU). The charity has created Children’s Corners in ten public libraries as well as bringing a world of reading material – including African and Ugandan stories – in the form of e-books to children. Book Aid has also established over 125 school libraries and provides books to community libraries and primary and secondary schools across the country.
Uganda also has its first mobile library, set up in 2014 by English teacher and publisher Rosey Sembataya. Her aim: to build ‘a generation of book guzzlers.’ The Malaika Mobile Library delivers books to children via motorbike taxis, or boda bodas as they are known in Uganda, for an annual fee of around US$30. Readers are encouraged to guzzle up to three books a week – a good deal for eager readers in a country where books are seen as prohibitively expensive.
In terms of picture books available to readers outside Uganda, there are not just one but two wonderful titles by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra van Doorn, published by UK-based Lantana Publishing. The author was born in the US to Ugandan parents and has worked for last 10 years in international development in East and Southern Africa. Sandra van Doorn was born in France, attended art classes in Canada and now lives and works in Australia.
I struggled to find other titles, so reached out to Sooo Many Stories for recommendations. They suggested I take a look at picture books by Cathy Kreutter, writer and librarian at the International School of Uganda. Originally from the US, Cathy Kreutter has been based in Uganda since 1985. A selection of her books is available on Amazon (and a slightly smaller selection on Amazon Australia) – I am looking forward to sharing one of them with you!
I did happen on a short picture book, Courageous Weaverbird by Evangeline L. Barongo, illustrated by Samuel Muganga, when I visited the exhibition of 2018 IBBY Honour Books in Canberra in October. The author, a retired librarian, has written a number of children’s books and is the leader of the Ugandan Children’s Writers and Illustrators Association (IBBY Uganda). I could not find these titles available for purchase online.
So, without further ado, here are the three books I’ll be reviewing over the next couple of weeks:
Sleep Well, Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra van Doorn (Lantana Publishing, 2017)
The Rock and Roll Rolex by Cathy Kreutter, illustrated by Andrew Jackson Obol (Cornerstone Development, 2018)
Sing to the Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra van Doorn (Lantana Publishing, 2018)
I hope you will enjoy these three titles as much as I do.[Image: Murchison Falls National Park by Teseum made available under a creative commons licence. Source: www.flickr.com]