"Gloria Steinem said “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” Entering this competition and WINNING it encourages me to keep dreaming of the possibility of reaching children through the magic of books and the excitement of writing. What a dream come true to be able to contribute to the wonders of the imagination in such a way" - Liza Esterhuyse, 2013 Winner of the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books.

Liza Esterhuyse is a qualified occupational therapist with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention. Things you should know about Liza: She is a daydreamer, a book junkie, a red wine drinker, a world lover, a tree hugger, a dog enthusiast, a horse admirer and a Capetonian.

Due to her passion for the children of South Africa and the vast need in her country, Liza and a friend started a non-profit organization in 2010, called The Kula Foundation, with the aim to support vulnerable children growing up in adverse conditions. She is currently working for another non-profit organisation called Cape Mental Health where she is the coordinator of three special education and care centres in three different townships in the Western-Cape.

Find out a little more about Liza in this interview we had with her!

When you were young did you like to read?

Yes I loved reading books as a child, I still do! And even before I could read my, parents used to read to us every night before bedtime.

If you could bring one thing into the world, what would it be and why?

Laughter -laughter knows no boundaries, no politics, no race, no religion. For a moment you forget and forgive and you see life as it should be- beautiful.

What music do you listen to and who are your favourite bands or artists?

I listen to a diverse genre of music, but the CD’s you’ll currently find in my car include: The National; Muse; Florence and the Machine and Shortstraw. I am a huge 80’s fan and will not hesitate to bust a move on any one of that era’s greatest hits.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?

To pick your battles, dream big and to follow your curiosity and intuition

What inspired you to write The Little Hippo?

I was on a Safari with my family in the Serengeti and saw a teenage hippo (according to our guide) grazing under an umbrella thorn tree in the midday sun. The sight intrigued me as it’s very unusual for a hippo to be out of the water during the day. So I started wondering why?  

What other writers inspire you and in what ways?

This is such a difficult question to answer. When I think of five of my most beloved books, the authors and the stories are all so different, but I think CS Lewis and his endless imagination inspired me to keep dreaming and to become part of the story which you are trying to tell.

When did you write your winning story?

The Little Hippo was born in April 2011, but I only started writing the story, 16 months later in August 2012.

What are you most passionate about now?

I’m passionate about horse riding (I wish I could do it every day); saving our beautiful planet, drinking coffee and the people I love.

What is your dream for African children’s literature?

I hope it grows and becomes strong, so that it can climb over all the obstacles Africa throws at it and reach each and every little inquisitive mind out there.

We hope for the same things Liza. Thanks for the interview!






Hits: 5253

"Nestling against my mother for a bedtime story under the veil of a mosquito net was a magical time. The best stories were told when my sister and I pleaded for our mum to tell us a story from her head" - Karen Hurt, 2013 Winner of the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books.

Karen Hurt is a South Africa based independent writer, editor, materials developer and writing workshop facilitator. She is also the winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books for her story,What’s Going on at 179 Jabulani Street

Apart from addressing current topics in a way that children will find engaging, Karen has learnt to shed her protector role and free her young protagonists when she is writing fiction. Esi Sutherland-Addy, professor at the University of Ghana African Studies Department and 2013 judge commented on Karen's story, “The protagonists of this gripping adventure story are depicted as true children; up to pranks and trying to outwit grownups.” 

We had a nice little chat with Karen and she told us about some of her favourite books. Read the interview below to find out what they are!

Describe your childhood. What were you like, what was your family like, and what did you like to do?

My parents encouraged natural curiosity and for us, their daughters, to take an interest in current affairs; and to see the world as our classroom. I never once heard them tell me that there was something I couldn’t do because I was a girl. They did not doubt the imaginary horses I galloped around on nor my imaginary friends. My mother crawled into the tent-style houses we made out of sheets pegged onto chairs set on a carpet that floated on rivers, and she pretended to drink the muddy-water tea we concocted.

 Playing with marbles and cars, setting up a classroom for my dolls and making them tiny school books (I have no recollection what I taught, if anything), climbing the huge tree in our garden and observing the world below,putting on spontaneous shows, and playing with friends were amongst my favourite things to do.

My parents were avid readers and through them I developed a taste for reading. These values; and childhood experiences growing up in Zambia (where I was born), the UK, and South Africa shaped my formative years.

On what I was like, I just called my 82-year-old mother. She said I was, ‘never in trouble and easy-going.’ I guess I live out the life of getting up to mischief through the characters in my stories.

 When you were young did you like to read?

I loved reading on my own, and listening to stories that my parents or teachers read aloud. The family reading tradition continued when I had children – we’d gather together mostly in the evening or when on holiday for story times. We read the Harry Potter series, Eva Ibbotson’s wonderful Journey to the River Sea, and Mike Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time this way. Even today, in conversation, we refer to those books we traversed together.

Actually, I still love being read to – a story, a newspaper article, something my children have written for school or university.

What types of books did you read? What was your favorite book as a child?

I read mostly detective, mystery and adventure stories. Enid Blyton’s adventure/fantasy The Magic Faraway Tree was a favourite. And the very sad Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams. After many tearful chapters, at least it had a happy ending. I believe this book has recently been republished.

How did you come to start writing?

As a child I wrote little stories and letters to family from the time I learnt how to write. Whenever my family travelled, diary writing was part of the journey. I still have some of the entries.

What other writers inspire you and in what ways?

I’ve been inspired and moved by so many writers both in fiction and narrative nonfiction. Most recently, however, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being – shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize – has caused me to think about time, and being, in a new way. It’s a breath-taking multidimensional story with a fascinating teenage protagonist. The story has lingered and I hope it will motivate me to be more experimental and perhaps more daring in how and what I write in future. NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel We Need New Names – shortlisted for the same prize – inspires me to want to craft harder and more creatively at dialogue, description and the creation and sustaining of vivid children characters and their voices.

I get much food for thought from reading or listening to/watching interviews with authors. Philip Pullman comes to mind here, as does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, especially her TED talk The Danger of a Single Story.  

What does winning the Golden Baobab Prize mean for you?

It means the world to me. Being told the news still feels unreal. When I think about it, my heart does a quick cartwheel. I hope it will mean networking and possibly collaborating in some way with authors who share the Golden Baobab’s passion, mission and goals. And to have the story published would be absolutely fabulous!

What inspired you to write What’s Going on at 179 Jabulani Street? 

I tend to start with place, a faint scent of a theme or plot, and then characters. With What’s going on at 179 Jabulani Street? I wanted to set a story on the side of Johannesburg where I live, beneath the gaze of two tall buildings that dominate our skyline day and night in a compass-like way. Ponte Tower is a 54-storey donut-style apartment building which has a red crown at night, and the Hillbrow Tower’s top shines blue. Most of the story takes place nearby in Yeoville, where Sophie, one of the two protagonists, lives.

There have been regular ads on the radio and TV saying we all need to do something about stopping rhino poaching and many news stories about how many rhino have been killed; and debates around how to stop the poaching and decrease demand for rhino horn powder. How do children whose concerns are more survivalist relate to these rhino stories and being urged to do something?

I decided to explore this through the story. The research was fascinating and in some cases visually violent. I found out about poaching and smuggling techniques and routes. On the internet I came across an interview with a cleaner in one of the big game reserves about the impact of poaching on her life. This gave me some insight that I was looking for.

What inspires you as a writer?

  • Places.
  • Authors whose writing is of a quality that takes my breath away. It makes me want to learn more about the craft of writing.
  • Quirky things when walking or driving around my district and the city – or anywhere. Story ideas pop up this way but many fizzle out. One image that has remained with me is watching a grown man running down the street at high speed pushing a pink toy pram. Why? It seemed to me there were so many possibilities. I still want to get to that story.
  • When, after drafts and drafts, the story begins to coalesce and there’s that feeling that it’s going to work.

What is your dream for African children’s literature?

We need a deliciously wide range of genres written by African writers, set in African contexts with characters that African children will be excited by and identify with. I think it is overdue that children all over the world had the opportunity to read stories like these.

What legacy would you as an African children’s writer want to leave in improving the reading and writing culture in Africa?

It feels presumptuous to talk about leaving a legacy. But I am passionate about promoting a love for reading and creative writing. I think campaigns to encourage reading and telling stories in families is one way to do this. Aside from enjoyment, it can also help children and parents/guardians open up discussions on topics that are sensitive and often avoided.

 I’m a big fan of promoting journal writing from a young age and encouraging writing as an enjoyable activity that helps children become confident at it, just like practicing a sport does. Journal writing can help children express themselves, and for them to find their own authentic voice when it comes to writing for school and pleasure.

 Children’s enthusiasm for writing can easily be squelched by teachers’ red ink corrections and focus on grammar and spelling. It would be great if we could spend more time in classrooms making space and time for children’s imagination to evolve, to write drafts and get feedback from peers and the teacher, and for editing to be done as the final part of the writing process.

Thanks for speaking with us, Karen. We've enjoyed our chat!


Hits: 6008

“Why do I write? I write to inspire other people and to create my own characters and bring them to life.” – Kanengo Rebecca Diallo, Winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers.

Kanengo Rebecca Diallo is an incredible twelve year old writer  who lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her parents and two siblings. She is a seventh grade student at the International School of Tanganyika (IST). Her story, Pieces of Africa, is about four children with diverse backgrounds who come from different parts of Africa. They have been chosen to find all the magical puzzle pieces scattered around Africa in order to save the world. 

We had the opportunity to chat with Kanengo and find out how she developed her passion for writing at such a young age. Read our interview with her below!

What is the first thing you remember writing and how old were you?

I wrote a story about how lying had consequences when I was ten years old. That is the story I remember vividly. I started writing stories when I was as young as seven.

 At what age did you realize you wanted to write?

I realized writing was what I wanted to do for a long time when I was in fourth grade. I was about the only person in my class who would write pages and pages of stories when our teacher handed out writing assignments. Not only did I like writing the stories, I would admire them when the teacher put them up on the wall. The best compliments I treasured were the ones people would give me about my stories. I didn’t realize I liked writing so much until the day my teacher read out one of my stories to the class and every one said I should become an author.

 How did you find out about the Golden Baobab Prizes and why did you decide to enter?

I found out about Golden Baobab when I was in the sixth grade. An announcement about the competition was posted on the school bulletin board. I was actually late to school that day and my friends told me I should enter a story. I thank a lot of people for encouraging me to enter the competition. I also decided to enter because I wanted to finally get a chance to fulfill my dream of becoming an author. Now I'm one step closer to that dream! 

 What does winning the Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers mean for you?

It is the greatest honor to be Golden Baobab’s winner for the 2013 Rising Writer’s award. I will never forget this day. Winning the competition means a lot to me! Having had my story read and evaluated by so many incredible people is a huge plus. I am also very excited to be one of the judges on the panel for the 2014 Golden Baobab writing competition.

 What inspired you to write Pieces of Africa?

I was inspired by a previous story that I had started to write in fifth grade. It was about the four seasons instead of the four elements of earth. I thought this would relate more to African children. The stories had very different characters and settings but the central idea was common to both stories. One day I hope to turn the story I wrote in fifth grade into one of my series.

 What is the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?

Life is a gift from God. It is very valuable because it is short and we should use that time to do great things that will leave a mark on this planet and in people’s lives.

 What is your favourite local meal?

 I have so many! I quite like chapatti and choroko (green grams). I usually like eating it on a cold day to warm my belly.

 What is the last book you read and liked and why did you like it?

The last book that I read and liked a lot was the Winnie Years series. I liked it a lot because it was told in a child’s perspective and it talked about the challenges of growing up. Another reason I liked the book was because I could relate to the main character when she was twelve years old as I am also twelve years old.

 What are your writing ambitions for the future?

 I will write the second book of the Pieces of Africa series and hopefully get it published. After that, I am hoping to start a new series and draw comics too. I think I will write five books in all for the Pieces of Africa series.

Thanks for chatting with us, Kanengo. We know you will go on to write amazing African children's stories!






Hits: 5812

Posted by on in News

2013 Shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

The Princess with a Golden Voice by Philip Begho (Nigeria)

But the great head just swayed and swayed, and then the eyes of the beast closed. The monster was enchanted by the song! Quietly, it laid its huge head down on the ground. Without stopping her song, Ese snatched a huge sword from a guard. With her two hands, she swung it at the snake. And cut off its head!

Philip Begho is an award-winning author who has published over a hundred books, including the critically acclaimed Jelly Baby (a novel about boy soldiers), Songbird (a young adults novel about career choice), and the blockbuster Penny for an Orphan. Philip appeared twice on the longlist for his stories, The Princess with a Golden Voice and The Two-Headed Monster. However, it was The Princess with a Golden Voice that made it onto the 2013 shortlist. 

"How exciting to make the 2013 shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books!” he said. “The news came as I was pondering where the greatest stories lurked. In films? On the stage? In real life? In bestselling novels? No, they are to be found in the best children's stories. For no story is as timeless, as universal, as revealing or as helpful as the best of the world's children's stories.”


The Little Hippo by Liza Esterhuyse (South Africa)

But how amazing” The Little Hippo thought, “that although we are all so very different we can still work together to keep each other safe. We can be a part of the same herd, even though we don’t look the same. And so the Little Hippo said goodbye to his new little friend (who was still very tired after her swim) and happily and SLOWLY plodded his way back to his pond and pod. 

Liza Esterhuyse is a qualified occupational therapist with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention who loves children’s books.  

“Gloria Steinem said “without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” Entering this competition and being shortlisted encourages me to keep dreaming of the possibility of reaching children through the magic of books and the excitement of writing. What a dream come true to be able to contribute to the wonders of the imagination in such a way!” 


 Grandma Mimo's Breakfast by Carol Gachiengo (Kenya)


“Sweet beetles!” Grandma Mimo exclaimed, shaking her head. “Why won’t my red hen come out of the tree? Why won’t my white hen come out from under the store house? Where is my black hen hiding? Why won’t the goat give milk? I’m really very hungry and I need to have my breakfast. Her stomach agreed by grumbling and rumbling so loudly that it scared her shaggy cat. The cat gave a loud meow and ran under the bed.

Carol lives in Nairobi, Kenya, and works as a journalist and lawyer. Despite her busy schedule, she wrote a story, Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast, for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prizes.

“The news that I was shortlisted for the Golden Baobab Award absolutely made my day! I’m honoured to be part of a movement to create more beautiful African stories that our children can relate to.”


2013 Shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

Seven by Sabina Mutangadura (Zimbabwe)

“I know you’ll do really well,” Mama said, opening her door. She got out, opened my door and smiled at me. I undid my buckle and gave her a half smile. She took hold of my hand and led the way round the back of the building. Some of the people on the benches looked at us. I looked back at them. I wanted to say, “Stare, stare like a a sausage in the air!” the way Emma had taught me. But I said nothing. 

Sabina Mutangadura lives with her husband and daughter in Harare where she works as a full time writer of children’s and young adult novels. Sabina is the author of  Unfashionably in Love, a Nollywoods romance novel.

“I am enormously pleased to have made the shortlist. Really, enormously pleased. What an honour and a privilege!” 


Rhino by Richard Street (South Africa)

“What are we going to do now?” asked Makena anxiously. “They’re getting closer.” “We can’t stay here,” said Tafari. “We’ll have to hide. There’s plenty of thick bush and if we stay quiet they’ll never find us. They can’t see us yet. Better move quickly." Makena and Tafari bent low as they scampered away and into the safety of the bushes. 

Richard Street is a retired junior high school teacher and avid nature lover. Like many, Richard is horrified by the increase in rhino poaching activities in South Africa which is home to most of the world's rhinos.

 I feel enormously proud and humbled that my story has been judged to be worthy of this honour – particularly as it touches on a theme which is precious to me – the preservation of Africa’s treasure of wildlife in all its magnificence and variety, especially the majestic rhino which is in danger of being wiped out within a generation.”


 What's Going on at 179 Jabulani Street? by Karen Hurt (South Africa)

Sophie and Jama huddled together under the trap door for about half an hour. By the time The Colonel had gone into another room to look for the spare keys to the house, packed the crates into the van and driven away their legs were stiff and they were dusty and tired. Mr Chirindza opened the trap door and they climbed out. 

Karen Hurt is an independent writer, editor, materials developer and writing workshop facilitator.

“For quite some time I had been thinking about rhino poaching and the smuggling of rhino horns. There are regular ads on the radio saying we all need to do something and frequent news stories on how many rhinos have been killed. I wondered, “how do children relate to these rhino stories and to being urged to do something?” I decided to explore this through my story."


2013 Shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers

The Little Secret by Fego Martins Ahia (Oghenefego Ahia), 

When her Papa opened the door to check if she was still awake, she closed her eyes and covered her face with the free end of the bed linen. He disappeared without a sound, except for the soft noise of the wooden door. Kamila opened her eyes again and wondered what pigeons ate for dinner. "Do they eat white rice, like us?" she asked herself, a little too loudly, as if she were talking to someone else, someone she couldn't see in the dark.

Fego Martins Ahia is a first year student at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). He grew up surrounded by his father’s small library which ignited his imagination and encouraged his passion for writing.

“I feel deeply honoured and humbled to have made the shortlist of this year’s Golden Baobab Prizes. This is indeed a big dream come true as it was such an illuminating experience writing a children’s story that spoke to my roots in gentle whispers. Thank God for Golden Baobab!”


Pieces of Africa by Kanengo Rebecca Diallo (Tanzania)

Oh no! I overslept. I quickly slid on my combats and ran out the door still in my bed-rumpled pajamas. There was a Jupon waiting outside the hall way to guide me to the dinning room but I just zipped past her and made my way around to the dining, popped myself down on a chair and dug in to the food.

Twelve year old Kanengo, who is the youngest person on the 2013 shortlist, lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her parents and two siblings, and is a seventh grade student at the International School of Tanganyika (IST).

 “When I received the news that I was on the shortlist, it was one of the happiest days of my life. The day before the shortlist was to come out was a very nervous one for me. I constantly bit on my nails and I could barely sleep that night. I finally got the news on Wednesday evening while doing my maths homework. So much relief and excitement washed over me that I threw my math book on the floor out of sheer joy! I was overjoyed!”


Hits: 6140

Posted by on in News

Of the 180 stories submitted to this year’s Golden Baobab Prizes, 25 made it onto the longlist and 8 to the shortlist. The 8 shortlisted stories are:

The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

The Princess with a Golden Voice by Philip Begho (Nigeria)

The Little Hippo by Liza Esterhuyse (South Africa)

Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast by Carol Gachiengo (Kenya)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

Seven by Sabina Mutangadura (Zimbabwe)

Rhino by Richard Street (South Africa)

What’s going on at 179 Jabulani Street? by Karen Hurt (South Africa)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers

The Little Secret by Fego Martins Ahia (Nigeria)

Pieces of Africa by Kanengo Rebecca Diallo (Tanzania)

To read the full press release visit our press release page.

Hits: 4446