First published in 1985, Journey to Jo’burg is just as important today as it was back then. Based on her own experiences of growing up in South Africa, Beverley Naidoo reflects on her past to tell a very important story that we can all learn valuable lessons from.
When Naledi and Tiro’s baby sister, Dineo, becomes gravelly ill the two children feel utterly helpless and fear that it could only be a matter of days before Dineo breathes her last breath. They know they must get to their Mma but she works in the big city, Johannesburg, which is over three-hundred kilometres away. With no money and only their steely determination to do everything they can to save Dineo, the siblings set off on a walk along the big, dusty road…
Some books deserve to be classed as essential reading for children and this is definitely one of those. Naidoo tells a brilliant and eye-opening story that explores the horrors of apartheid-era South Africa and the unfairness of a system that favoured white people. The narrative, that does not shy away from the shocking realities, offers children a valuable education and a window into the life of black people living in South Africa and the horrific struggles that they endured.
The inspiring and courageous journey taken by Naledi and Tiro sees them experience humanity at its best and worst. They feel the kindness of strangers who offer them food, a bed for the night, a few coins and help them stay out of the clutches of the police. They are also subjected to the awful racial divide when they are not able to ride the same bus as white people and learn about the need to carry a pass to prove that you are legally allowed to be out. They are not even allowed to live with their own mother.
Whilst apartheid may be confined to the history books, racial inequality and injustice is still prevalent around the world and Beverley Naidoo’s book is a superb introduction to what is still a global issue. Accompanied by black and white illustrations by Lisa Kopper, Journey to Jo’burg Is sure to open up many an important conversation about racial inequality and should serve as a valuable reminder that no person should ever be superior to another because of race, ethnicity or gender.
Recommended for 9+.