Children's Fiction

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Williams, Elaine, and Rodger Bosch

Mina Mata! Mines Kill!

Stars of Africa series. Illustrated by Jiggs Snaddon-Wood. Cape Town, South Africa: Maskew Miller Longman, 2004. 32 p. ISBN 0-636-06049-7. All ages.

The cover of this booklet – the photograph of an African child on crutches with half a leg missing – shows how the world and children’s literature have changed forever. Children used to be shielded from topics like war, death, and missing limbs. However, this book tackles the brutality head on – and commendably.

The first half of the book is a factual account about Maria Antonia, a sixteen-year-old girl in southern Angola. “The soldiers” (their politics are not specified) have been making life dangerous for as long as she can remember. After one alarm, when her family fled into the bush, she went back to their hut and stepped on a landmine. She lost a foot, and her face was badly scarred; even getting her to a clinic was a problem. “It always is when someone gets hurt by a mine around here,” says the text unemotionally (9). Nobody wants to put a vehicle on roads that may be mined. Maria’s story is strong, unsparing, and effective. There are some messages of hope when the Angolans learn how to make prosthetic legs, and in the joy of father coming home. The second part consists of factual details and information about landmines around the world, particularly in Africa. Why do people use landmines? Who makes landmines? These questions are answered, and additional details about these “blind, silent killers” are provided. There is a brief account of current wars in Africa, a glossary, and a mixture of colour photographs and artwork.

Young people worldwide appear to enjoy computer games and graphic novels in which war and violence appear to be glorified. This book emphasises the reality, making readers understand the cry of Maria’s mother: “Who will marry her now? And how will we eat? The fields are full of mines and we cannot plant crops” (12).

Children's Fiction

South Africa

Maskew Miller Longman (MML)