Song of Be
Cape Town, South Africa: Maskew Miller Longman, 1991. 76 p. ISBN 0-636-01564-5. Ages 12 and up.
Publisher: Maskew Miller Longman (MML)
The poignant story of Be portrays the plight in southern Africa of the San people in modern times and of the increasingly impoverished White farmers. Its opening sentence, “I have just killed myself” (3), catches both the drama of the San girl’s situation and the threat of extinction to her people or, at the very least, of their traditional way of life. A story of love, courage, and dignity, Song of Be is one of the most significant youth novels published in South Africa. The author’s polished and poetic prose style provides deep insight into the people who live in this part of Africa. The poignancy of their struggle is captured with compassion: “The scent of sweetness on the air and the soft, grey dust before our footsteps were blown out.”
Lesley Beake has worked and lived with the Ju/’hoan people in Namibia, and the picture she paints in this novel is all too genuine. She has written a number of awarding-winning youth novels, including The Strollers (1987) and A Cageful of Butterflies (1988). Song of Be was listed by the American Library Association as a Notable Children’s Book in 1993 and as a Best Book for Young Adults in 1995. It is also available in French, German, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, and Italian editions.