Sunday, 2 March 2014


Where in the world will you be for World Book Day? 

Maybe lucky enough to be celebrating books in some exotic corner while the rest of us languish in rain-soaked England? But wherever, World Book Day is an opportunity to celebrate not just books but special people who do so much to promote the love of books. 

Did you read the recent post by Maeve Friel –The Magic of the Hay Cartagena Festival  where she tells of a man who wheels his library cart through the streets of Cartagena lending books to all in need of a story?

As Barry Lopez says in his book ‘Crow and Weasel’:
‘The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to keep them alive.’

Mercy Jonathan works in a tiny shop called Make Africa owned by Janet Holding, in a village next to the sea on the southern tip of Africa in a place called Plettenberg Bay. The shop sells baskets and beads and fabrics from every part of Africa. It smells of the hot countries the objects come from… smoky wood and dried grass. But its also sells books.

Mercy is my special book person for World Book Day. 

Her memories of story come from her childhood growing up on a farm in Malawi where her grandmother told her the story of Hare and Baboon and a jar of peanut butter. Of course old trickster Hare was faster than Baboon and finished the peanut butter in a matter of moments and was off and away, leaving nothing for Baboon.  Sharing was the theme.  And it’s no co-incidence that this is what Mercy does at Make Africa… she shares the creativity of all the artisans whose work she displays and shares the stories of the books she sells.  

Loved by all her customers… the steady stream of foreign tourists who browse through the shop, as well as the locals popping in for a scrap of African cloth, she speaks four languages and is known for her flamboyant style of dress, her plaited hairstyles and her elaborate headscarves. I’m sorry to admit I visited her the first time without a camera and then returned again without warning on one of her less flamboyant days… but her smiling face says it all.

Piles of my picture book The Magic Bojabi Tree (The Name of the Tree is Bojabi in South Africa) have literally vanished because of her charm. She’s the best bookseller I know who just happens to live on the southern tip of Africa. 

But with World Book Day coming up, there must be masses of other great booksellers in the UK, as well as in other corners of the earth, who authors need to recognise. What about doing a series of blogs on the best of them… and I don’t mean shops… I mean the person who holds the book and touches the pages and places it in the hands of the reader with a secret smile?  Let's salute them! Thank you Mercy!
THE MAGIC BOJABI TREE – Dianne Hofmeyr, illustrated by Piet Grobler, published by Frances Lincoln, UK
THE NAME OF THE TREE IS BOJABI – published by Human & Rousseau, South Africa


Joan Lennon said...

Too many to choose one, so thank you to all!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes Joan know what you mean about choosing one... now I feel guilty about not mentioning all the rest!

Maeve said...

I nominate Mary Judy, an American bookseller in Dubray Books, Galway Ireland who not only recommends books and runs a terrific World Book Day (which lasts a week) but has a fabulous blog about children´s books at

Maeve said...
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Sadie Cramer said...

I also nominate Mary Esther Judy (Dubray Books, Galway, Ireland) she's terrific!! She oozes a passion for books which spills out into her connectivity with people, is tireless in her campaigning and has such a well structured and informative blog. We all love her and what she does and we're very grateful to have such a knowledge here in Galway.9