Wednesday, June 12, 2013

South Africa, 2013 by Marj Brown

We are very excited about hosting the Kids' Lit Quiz world final in Durban this year.

The last time South Africa hosted the World Final was in 2009 in Johannesburg.  That was hard work!  I organised the entire event with one friend, Nicky Sulter from St Johns Prep School, on a shoestring budget.  Exclusive Books funded the day of the Quiz and, through extensive fundraising, we managed to provide food, entertainment and accommodation for the rest of the week.  A wonderful occasion - but exhausting!

This year, Nicky and I are working with a fabulous committee in Durban and a generous budget from Times Media Division, one of our major newspapers in South Africa. This has made a huge difference. We have more international teams attending and more parents coming to support them. This has made the responsibility that much bigger but it should also be great fun - a huge literary party!

Durban is a lovely place in winter, as it usually is warmer than where I stay in Johannesburg. The attractions that we have lined up for the teams will provide a taste of what this province has to offer and Linda Algie, from the Kids' Lit Quiz committee, has also provided lots of  information on local attractions.  Have a look at the Kids' Lit Quiz South Africa website for more information on Durban.

We are honoured to offer warm South African hospitality and host the teams in bookshops, game reserves, on the beach as well as at Durban Girls College, where they will stay.

I am excited about the fact that each team has been asked to bring a traditional folk tale, which Gcina Mhlophe, one of our beloved story tellers, will use in a workshop so that all teams can identify similarities and differences in characters, themes, morals, etc.

Storytelling is a deeply traditional activity in Africa and Gcina is one of the few woman storytellers in a country dominated by males. She does her most important work through charismatic performances, working to preserve storytelling as a means of keeping history alive and encouraging South African children to read.  She tells her stories in four of South Africa’s languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa.

Nokugcina Elsie Mhlophe is a well-known South African freedom fighter, activist, actor, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author

I also look forward to hearing about the favourite book of one member of each team at the gala dinner to be held amongst the aquarium tanks at Ushaka Marine World Aquarium.

I want to introduce some of our wonderful South African writers, who will be at the gala dinner, to readers at Reading for Australia so you too can discover their work.  More information about these writers can be found at the Kids' Lit Quiz South Africa website which also links through to information about some of their books.

James Hendry
Edyth Bulbring
Elana Bregin

Edyth Bulbring is the author of Pops & The Nearly Dead and The Club, as well as four young adult fiction novels, The Summer of Toffie and Grummer, Cornelia Button and the Globe of Gamagion, Melly, Mrs Ho and Me and Melly, Fatty and Me.

Elana Bregin's published novels include Shiva’s Dance, Kalahari Rain Song, Slayer of Shadows, and The Red-Haired Khumalo, and some of her short stories can be found in the anthologies Memories of Sun, Keys and Fantastic Space Stories.

James Hendry is the author of A Year in the Wild, and co-author of the non-fiction bestseller, Whatever You Do, Don't Run.

Joanne Macgregor
Marguerite Poland

Joanne Macgregor's books include Rock Steady, Turtle Walk, Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure and Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom.

Marguerite Poland is the author of eleven childrens' books, including The Mantis of the Moon and Woodash Stars, both awarded the Percy Fitzpatrick Award.  The Mantis and the Moon also received the Sankei Honorable Award for translation into Japanese.   Her more recent works, Recessional for Grace and The Abundant Herds: a Celebration of the Nguni Cattle of the Zulu People have been adapted for documentary films.

Rachel Morgan
Di Stewart
Lesley Beake

Rachel Morgan  spends much of her time writing fiction for young adults.  She is the author of the Faerie Guardian series of books.

Di Stewart's books include The Dove and The Gift of the Sun which has been translated into Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, French, Spanish, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans and Korean.  She has also published the short story, The Crash, which won the Maskew Miller ‘Young Africa’ award, the youth novel, Chasing the Wind and a collection of essays called Sea, Sand and Sky.

Lesley Beake has published almost 80 books in twenty five years of writing. All her stories are set in Africa and are rich in African imagery and landscape.   Much of her work involves writing for readers who are reading in English as their second, third, or even fourth language. Lesley's most recent books are Three Friends, Jock and Little Lion.  Please see Lesley's website for a full list of titles.

Just last week, we announced that more authors will be joining us in Durban.  I am delighted to welcome and introduce you to Ida Gartrell, Pieter Schotz, Fiona Snyckers and Margaret Von Klemperer.  Read more about these writers here.

Lastly, we look forward to witnessing our own Story Giant, Wayne Mills, in action, as quizmaster – to see what he has come up with this year to test the skills of the young contestants.

I wish all the teams the very best as they prepare for their literary adventure.

About the Author

Marj Brown is the National coordinator for the Kids' Lit Quiz (South Africa).  

In addition to the World Final, Marj is currently also preparing for the Phendulani Quiz  she runs.   First Marj organises for 24 new books to be donated to each of 40 SA schools that do not have libraries, and then, in October each year, she runs the Quiz to promote literacy. 

The senior school librarian at Rodean School in Johannesburg, Marj trained as an history, English and mathematics teacher.  From a family of six kids, her parents also looked after several other children, so the family home was always overflowing with people, conversation and books.   Marj has always felt a strong sense of social, economic and political justice and worked for over 15 years as an rural fieldworker/activist against Apartheid. 

 'As a child, I loved books about Cowboys and Indians (always taking the latter’s side!)   Murder mysteries, animal stories – I collected all the strays in the neighbourhood ( The Incredible Journey, Old Yeller, Savage Sam, were some of my favourites) and stories about orphans, such as Pollyanna and Huckleberry Finn, were all wonderful.   I also devoured folk tales from other lands.  

One of my favourite children’s books at present is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  A picture book that I adore is The Herd Boy by Nicky Daly.

I am currently reading Sanctuary: How an inner city church spilled onto the sidewalk by Christa Kuljian, about a church that houses inner city refugees in Johannesburg, My Children Have Faces about the poor nomads of the South African semi desert, the Karoo, and Endings and Beginnings, written by Redi Tlhabi, a popular South African radio announcer, about a young girl and a gangster in Soweto.'


  1. Announced on the Kids' Lit Quiz South Africa Facebook page 2 hours ago - the winner of the New Zealand competition is: Takapuna Normal Intermediate School.

    Congratulations, Takapuna!

    You join Canberra Grammar School (Australia), University of Toronto School (Canada), Rodean School (South Africa), Cockermouth School (UK) and Squadron Line Elementary School (USA) at the World Final.

  2. Congratulations, Takapuna! The team from Canberra Grammar look forward to meeting you in Durban. Only 17 more sleeps to go!
    A big thanks to Marj and the SA team for putting together such an awesome programme.