The second book in the Murray & Me idiom series, “Hetta Elizabetta en die Wêreld op haar Skouers” (Hetta Elizabetta and the world on her shoulders), has just been released and is an essential addition to every child’s bookshelf. The book was written by actor Milan Murray and is colourfully illustrated by Marisa du Toit.
The increasing absence of idioms from the world of children was the motivation for the series. This latest book was written in rhyme with the focus on alliteration, assonance and metre. The first idiom book, “Pieter Kokkewieter en die Hart op sy Mou” (Pieter Kokkewieter and the heart on his sleeve) was published last year and has already sold some 2 000 copies.
The Murray&Me idiom series comprises picture books ideal for 6-9 year olds. The stories attempt to introduce Afrikaans idioms to youngsters as a way of encouraging conversations about life skills and values. Its characters are young children who experience and question the world around them, which resonates especially well with young readers.
The publishers are Milan and entrepreneur Charmaine Nolte, who launched their children’s book company Murray&Me last year.
“We’ve seen virtually every day how idioms disappear from our children’s vocabularies,” says Milan. “It was however Prof Betsie van der Westhuizen at the University of Potchefstroom whose caution on the importance of idioms as bridging between concrete and abstract thinking struck a chord.”
The series has already been adopted by subject advisors at schools who recognise the value of the idiom and how it is too often underestimated and excluded from learning programmes.
Linda Bredenkamp, a curriculum advocate and Grade 5 teacher, was the language advisor on the idiom project. She started using the Hetta manuscript in her classes before the book had even gone to print.
“These beautiful picture books can help parents and teachers explore life skills with children in a fun way through reading aloud and self-reading,” says Linda. “Even readers in Grades 4-6 who are still unable to read comfortably will connect with the relevant themes, rhyming text and creative illustrations.”
Milan adds that they selected idioms that “sparked lively images in our minds”. “We also chose idioms associated with particular themes we feel strongly about, such as individuality; the importance of conversation; and, the destructive influence of bullies.”
In “Hetta Elizabetta en die Wêreld op haar Skouers”, an enormous world of problems and anxiety weighs heavily on the shoulders of seven-year-old Hetta.
“Sy wonder – Kry branders ook seer as hulle breek?
En wat gaan als swel as ’n by haar sou steek?
Dink jy die tandemuis
Het ’n woonstel of ’n huis?
En kom AL die muise sáám om ons tande te bespreek?”
“Daar’s ook ’n paar GROTER goed wat haar pla
Wat sy stoksiel-alleen op haar skouers moet dra.
Haar maatjies se baklei
En haar ouers wat stry
En die donker wat haar elke nag bang maak en jaag.”
The third book in the series will be available towards the end of next year and with focus on the idiom “Kop in die Wolke” (Head in the Clouds).
About the author, illustrator and publisher
Milan Murray is a well-known actor and TV personality. She trained in Pretoria and New York, and features regularly in television series and stage productions. She was the anchor presenter for KykNet’s Afrikaans language breakfast show, “Ontbytsake”. Her filmography includes numerous student productions in New York as well as Mooirivier in 2013, Van lyn af in 2014 and Die Muse in 2015.
In 2010 she published her motherhood journal “Koemelaat” and in 2015, her first children’s book “Pieter Kokkewieter en die Hart op sy Mou” with illustrator Marisa du Toit.
Marisa du Toit is a trained dancer and artists. Numerous exhibitions of her art include amongst others a solo exhibition in Ras Al Khaima in Dubai and co-ordinated by Darcy Harris in the US.
Since her family’s return to South Africa seven years ago, she has exhibited full-time while illustrating for books and magazines, and teaching art. Her work adorns various galleries.
Charmaine Nolte is an entrepreneur and the founder of the children’s book company Murray&Me. With over 10 years’ experience in online sales, her vision to produce quality children’s books led to the birth of the Murray&Me idiom series.
As a mother of two, she appreciates the importance of literature and language development in young children, and she strives to create stories that are both entertaining and educational.