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Stewart, Dianne

The Gift of the Sun

Illustrated by Jude Daly. Cape Town, South Africa: Tafelberg, 1996. 32 p. ISBN 0-624-03837-8. Ages 6-10.

This is a deceptively simple African story of Thulani, a farmer who loved to bask in the sun all day. In the progression typical of folktales, first he sells his cow, then the goat, the sheep, and the geese, and finally he plants a field of sunflowers. With each transaction he assures himself that “Dora will be pleased.” But she is not. “What good are the sunflowers?” she complains. “All they do is follow the sun from morning to night – just like you” (21). However, the abundant seeds of the sunflowers encourage the chickens to lay more eggs, so that Thulani can buy some sheep and a cow. Dora is delighted, and happiness returns to them. Such is “the gift” of the sun.

Told with light humour and much perception, the story is superbly illustrated by Jude Daly (wife of the renowned illustrator Niki Daly) with spacious, airy, glowing artwork. The illustrations present rural life in Africa accurately and with dignity and affection. They reflect both the poverty and vastness of Africa through a few widely spaced and well-chosen items and through use of differing perspectives. The Gift of the Sun was the 1998 South African IBBY Honour Book for illustration. It was published simultaneously in Afrikaans; however, the earlier editions in isiXhosa and isiZulu are out of print. It is also available in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and French translations.

Picture Books

South Africa