Authors: Daniel Otte and Carin Thom

Publisher: Austin Macauley

ISBN: 978-1-78693-298-3

For anyone who is "au fait" with Rudyard Kipling’s tale of “The Elephant’s Child” from The Jungle Book, the mere title, Limpopo River Tales, cannot but serve to recall the resounding phrase: “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees”. The darkness of the cover of this great tome (which is 439 pages long – an exceptional length for any children’s book, one is bound to say, but whether this text is primarily aimed at children, or at adults with nostalgic longings to return to the world of yesteryear, is debatable), with the eponymous river gleaming lustrously in the distance under the sway of the full moon, shining down, through a beclouded sky, onto a tranquil rural setting, is intriguing and challenges the reader to open the book and start reading. That the two authors, Daniel Otte and Carin Thom, both come from a background that is very much dominated by memories of their school days is made clear from the start. Only those with an affinity for the young, as well as for the natural environment in which some are fortunate enough to be raised, could possibly have come to compose (and I do not use the word lightly) a work of this magnitude and nature. Rather than being a straightforward narrative account of the lives of two young children in the 1950s, it is more like a compendium of such a diverse range of material that it resembles the highly treasured and costly vintage annuals that have, over the last century, managed to capture the attention of such a range of admirers, stretching from the visual artist to the literary cognoscenti.

Limpopo River Tales is a profoundly joyful and endearing book that is clearly an outpouring of deep felt affection for the animal and bird life, as well as for the myth and mythology, of the land and environs through which the Limpopo River flows. Both the authors are widely travelled in Africa and draw equally on their own childhood experiences, and on other tales that they have read and heard about the habitat that they describe so vividly in prose, poetry and countless black-and-white illustrations (in a variety of formats) that are positioned at key points throughout the text. This is really a work in which to revel, as it is highly likely so to capture and enthral its readership that you will be likely to return to this text time and again, once you have read it all the way through, dipping into your favourite parts, and no doubt rereading them at length when you have sufficient time to do so. Just the illustrations alone are enough to draw one to revisit these pages, they are so tastefully and appropriately designed. Limpopo River Tales is, in fact, an exquisite piece of art that should become an heirloom in many a household across the land, no matter how technocratic our society becomes.

Limpopo River Tales may be read as a straightforward narrative involving two children who, while on their long summer holidays, sally forth from their vacation home in a hollowed-out baobab tree on sundry enthralling adventures in what is now Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique. Alternatively, it may be savoured as a multi-layered work of art that should be capable of being enjoyed by numerous coming generations. Whichever situation applies in the reader’s case (and, hopefully, they both apply in many), Limpopo River Tales is well worth the purchase cost, which is, in any case, extremely reasonable for a work of such magnitude and imagination.