David Donald’s Bibliotherapy and Resilience-related fiction books
Donald, David R. (2012) Gogo’s Song. Dartford, UK: Xlibris Corporation. (Adolescent novel) Softcover book ISBN: 978-1-4797-1024-9. 63pp. eBook ISBN: 978-1-4797-1025-6 63pp.
‘orphan’; ‘AIDS’; ‘stigma’; ‘tragedy’; ‘hardship’; ‘grief’; ‘resilience’; ‘teen love’; ‘bibliotherapy’
Synopsis (Press release, October 2012):
Gogo’s Song features the poignant journey of a young girl named Ntombi who takes on the world as she tries so desperately to deal with the loss of her mother and, most particularly, the tragic death of her adored grandmother. The extraordinary courage and resilience displayed by Ntombi takes her far in life. Nonetheless, her path is not easy at all. Having lost her mother to AIDS when she was still little, she is yet again faced with another tragedy, the death of her grandmother, Gogo. Not knowing where the road would take her, she continues to be inspired by the memory of her grandmother and, symbolically, the song that she sang to her whenever she was upset as a little child. Ultimately, Ntombi falls in love with the young man who rescues her from drowning, and ends up completing her schooling against all odds and fulfilling her ultimate goal in life to become a qualified nurse.
Donald, David R. (2012) I am Thabeka. Dartford, UK: Xlibris Corporation. (Adolescent novel) Softcover book ISBN: 978-1-4797-5138-9 77pp. eBook ISBN: 978-1-4797-5139-6 77pp.
‘orphan’; ‘multiple deaths’; ‘guilt’ ‘horror’ ‘grief’; ‘resilience’; ‘teen love’; ‘bibliotherapy’
Based on fact, this story, as told in the first person, is both harrowing and inspiring in terms of the multiple losses that the main character, Thabeka, (fictious name) experiences from childhood through to her adolescence. Within the grief, to which her reactions vary according who and how each family member dies, the inspiration which the story generates is around her extraordinary courage, determination, resilience and ultimate resolution of her grieving reactions.
Amongst the close relationships she forms with others outside her family, two relationships stand out as crucial to Thabeka’s final resolution. One of these relationships is with an older woman whom she helps in terms of the latter’s needs and which is returned with empathetic sensitivity by the older, more experienced woman. The other relationship which is significant over the last few chapters of the story is with a young man with whom she falls in love, as he does with her, and the understanding and support he is able to give her. Ironically, her father’s apparent desertion of her turns out to be explicable and Thabeka’s final resolution of her lingering resentment of his desertion becomes joyous relief and hope for her future.
Review by Jay Heale, an eminent children’s literature critic, in ‘Bookchat’, May 2013:
“I AM THABEKA by David R Donald (Xlibris 2012)
One of three books written by this author, who is an educational psychologist with long years of experience, after deep research in KwaZulu-Natal into the problems faced by orphans in child-headed households, is the story of Thabeka that is based on that of a real girl who had to come to terms with the deaths of her mother and four siblings, and then was deserted by her father.
David Donald has woven this into a novel told in straightforward style, with much respect of local customs and, almost amazingly, a message of hope for the future. The story is accompanied by a guide to Zulu words used, explanation of certain African traditions, some questions to think about, possible activities and information for parents or teachers.”
Donald, David R. (Forthcoming) Yiza Thabo! Dartford, UK: Xlibris Corporation (Approximately 100pp). (Adolescent novel)
‘orphan’; ‘prolonged illness’; ‘grief’; ‘disbelief’; ‘resentment’; ‘anger’; ‘resolution’; ‘teen/adult love’; ‘bibliotherapy’
In this story, significant elements of the life of the main character, Thabo, extend from his childhood through to his young adulthood. The main periods described in the story involve, first, the build up to his mother’s death, second, the agonising consequences of her death for Thabo especially and, third, the resolution of the resentment, and even anger, he had felt at his mother’s passing which is largely facilitated by his father and the highly significant love relationship that he forms with a young, and later an adult, woman, Thandiwe.
Unusual as feelings of resentment and anger are in the grieving process, the story makes them believable in terms of Thabo’s specific experiences, especially with his stepmother who, after his own mother’s death, makes continuous, peremptory demands for him to “Come here Thabo!” hence the title of the book, “Yiza Thabo!”.
Note: Apart from loss, grieving and final resolution which occur in all three books, the content is otherwise totally different according to the particular story, including how the main characters deal with their grief. Aside from this difference, all three of the above books have sections at the end of the story in which it is suggested that the reader consider a number of ‘Questions to think about’ and some carefully chosen ‘Activities’ for him or her to undertake in relation to the story.
First, the purpose of including the former section is to encourage the reader to reflect on how he or she felt about the main character’s experiences, most particularly in relation to that character’s loss or losses, and his or her own possibly similar loss(s).
Second, in relation to the activities, the reader is encouraged, inter alia, to talk to another person who may have experienced such loss(s) which might generate an empathetic response in the reader. In addition, it is suggested that the reader write down who helped him or her if he or she had had similar experience(s) and how the reader helped him or herself.
Following the above two sections, another section entitled ‘Information for parents, caregivers and/or teachers’ which, amongst other things, describes the crucial information that all caregivers need to understand if the child concerned has lost a loved one. In essence, the three stages which most children go though are as follows:
“There are definite stages in this process and its final resolution, all of which have been extensively researched.
(Note: These stages are not invariable and some of them may blend together so that it is difficult to distinguish them. They are also likely to vary in how the child copes with them in terms of his or her age.)
1. Shock, numbness, anger and fear – which are often accompanied by a panic-filled ‘freezing’ and then desperate ‘searching’ for the lost one.
2. Depression, anger and, sometimes, feelings of guilt, all or some of which can last over a long period of time depending on the child’s inner strength and the nature of the support offered by such people as yourselves” – i.e. caregivers.
3. Finally, and again depending on the above factors, a process of resolution usually takes place. This is a process in which you” – i.e. caregiver – “ have a crucial role.”
2. Indirectly related:
Donald, D. (2007) Call on the Wind. Johannesburg: Jacana Media. ISBN 978-1-77009-360-7. 128pp. (Adolescent novel)
‘community solidarity’; ‘music’; ‘harmonies’; ‘Sea’; ‘fishing’; ‘love relationship’; ‘sea storm’; ‘group tragedy’; ‘community grieving’; ‘resilience’
In addition to the reviews below which, together, provide an adequate synopsis of the content of the story, there are two important elements from the point of view of bibliotherapy that need to be mentioned. The final two chapters of the book describe the grieving that the whole community have to go through and then the gradual process of healing that is facilitated by the mutual support and general resilience that exists in this close-knit group of fisher folk. The final resolution is brought together by the two main characters, Isaak and Liesa, deciding to get married, an event to which everyone is invited and which lends hope for the future for everyone.)
Review by Mooniq Shaikjee, IBBY 2007:
“Call on the Wind is a sincere and moving jewel of a novel from author David Donald. In gentle, flowing prose, it tells the tale of life in a small Griqua fishing village on South Africa’s Tsitsikamma coast.
Young Isaak struggles to find a balance between the responsibility he feels towards his community and his desire to become a musician. Will the community’s survival be compromised if he follows his dream instead of playing his part as a breadwinner?
With his father’s support, Isaak decides to travel to the distant Knysna to try to make a career out of his music. However, he is soon prompted to return home by his loyalty to his community and his shock at witnessing the brutal destruction of the forests around the city. Can he save his beloved home from suffering a similar fate?
Based on true oral accounts, the novel provides a unique insight into the life and culture of an indigenous people of South Africa. Colloquial Afrikaans phrases lend a note of authenticity to the account, and charming descriptions of everyday life and customs, such as the daily fishing routine and the popular group singing, really give one a window into the lifestyle of this close-knit society.”
Extracts of a longer review by Jay Heale, 2010:
“Beautiful in its simplicity, Call on the Wind is a story of bravery, loyalty to one’s roots, and the importance and strength of unity in the face of tragedy.” …
“This is fine, sensitive writing with characters that spring to life on the page and would seem to be genuine to the Griqua fishing community which the author seeks to recreate. It’s good to read about real people in a real world.”
Donald, D. (2004) Go away dog. JAWS HIV/AIDS Series, Level A (5-9 yrs). Oxford: Pearson Educational Limited. ISBN: 0 4358 9130 8. 16pp.
(Also translated into French (2005) and kiSwahili (2006).)
‘orphan’; ‘HIV/AIDS’; ‘stigma’; ‘courage’; ‘determination’; ‘resilience’
A simple short story for 5-9 year olds, the story tells of how a little girl is prevented from playing with other children due to the stigma attached to her being ‘sick’ (AIDS implied). Feeling lonely, she therefore befriends a stray puppy which she bravely insists should stay despite her grumpy grandmother not wanting to accept the dog for various reasons. In the end, the puppy, having grown up, alerts her grandmother to a robber and chases him away. On the strength of this, the grandmother relents and the girl can now play happily with the dog.
The element or resilience is apparent in this little girl’s determination not to buckle under either her grandmother’s recalcitrance in accepting the dog or the stigma attached to her illness.
Donald, D. (2005) Tumelo’s special mielie seeds. Heinemann Values in Education Series. Sandton: Heinemann Publishers. ISBN: 0 7962 1249 X. 48pp.
‘orphan‘; ‘gender discrimination’; ‘traditional values’; ‘HIV/AIDS’; ‘death’; ‘initiative’; ‘courage’; ‘resilience’; ‘bibliotherapy’
A story for 10-12 year olds, it describes the life of a young girl, Tumelo, in a rural village where traditional values and the consequent interpersonal practices are generally observed, especially in relation to gender roles. Through the loss of her father through AIDS (implied), Tumelo has to become adept at many tasks usually reserved for males. Fulfilling these roles with great skill and assurance generates both jealousy and ridicule amongst the boys in the village which Tumelo courageously ignores, but, inside, she is hurting with the pain of their rejection .
She then happens to meet up with a mysterious old woman who is sympathetic about her pain and seems to be able to read her dilemma. On parting, the old woman gives her some mielie (maize) seeds which she says are special and will reward her if she nurtures them.
The most challenging event that Tumelo has to weather is when her malumi (mother’s elder brother) comes to claim her house and furniture which, traditionally, should come to him following the death of both her parents. With great courage and initiative she addresses a meeting of the elders of the village which has been organised by the chief to debate the matter and she wins the elder’s vote in her favour. This victory for Tumelo is topped by her producing a bumper crop of meilies and a feast is held with the whole community invited where even the boys who had ridiculed her had to admit that she had done well.
The story ends with Tumelo dreaming that the mysterious old woman was, in fact, her long deceased grandmother whom, in her dream, she thanks (for the turn-around in her life implied).
Note: the elements of both resilience and bibliotherapy are apparent in the story in Tumelo’s courage in defying her gender discrimination and, even though she is still a young girl, publicly insisting that her malumi’s demands are unjustified.
Donald, D. (2012) The Secret of the Hidden Sun. Reading is Easy series. Sandton: Heinemann Publishers. ISBN: 978-0-7962-4493-2 32pp.
(Also translated into Sepedi, Setswana, isiZulu and isiXhosa (2012)
‘distress’; ‘terror‘; ‘ingenuity’; ‘courage’; ‘victory’
Another story for 10-12 year olds, it embraces an ancient Bushman myth related to a mysterious man who greedily hides the sun in his armpit to the distress of people and all living things on Earth. Through several terrifying attempts by two members of the Bushman group which end in disaster, the children of Kaggen – the most powerful of all Bushman spirit-beings – are sent, at great risk to their lives, to release the sun from the greedy, vengeful, man as they alone know how to send him to sleep. Through their ingenuity, courage and help from their father, Kaggen, they eventually succeed and the sun shines again on the grateful Earth and all its living beings.
Note: While this story does not relate to grief – except metaphorically – it reveals a level of courage in young children that could be seen as inspiring and resilience-building, and, therefore, therapeutic to young readers.