herd boy

The Herd Boy by Niki Daly

Malusi looks after his grandfather’s sheep during the day, taking them grazing and also protecting them from predators.  Malusi has to be able to work in the heat of the sun, keep the sheep away from the ravine, and keep close watch for snakes and baboons.  His friend Lungisa is also a shepherd but he has his own dog, something Malusi wishes for.  He also dreams of becoming something more than a herd boy, maybe even president! 

Daly weaves in African details to create a setting and society in this picture book.  The details are small but vibrant such as the food, the animals out in the wild, the landscape, and language.  She uses a few words and phrases of throughout the book, just enough to add some African spices to the tale.  Using poetic language, she draws the strong character and large dreams of Malusi clearly.  He is a young hero with large responsibilities and a willingness to lead.

Daly’s art embraces the landscape of Africa with ravines and hills framing the page, eagles soaring in the sky, and distinctive plants in the foreground.  There are full color images but also sepia toned ones that show small touches of the story as well.  The large format of the full-color images make this book good for sharing with a group.

Thanks to the beauty and depth of Daly’s writing, this picture book trends a little older than many.  It will also lead to interesting discussions with slightly older children.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.