Book Review: Sibo Makes a Difference, by Ginny Stone and an Interview with the Author

What with parts of South Africa currently undergoing the worst drought in a century, Ginny Stone’s colourful reader for children (primarily of middle school age), Sibo Makes a Difference (Lets Look; ISBN: 978-1-920293-80-2) could mean a world of difference to how the broadness of perspective that the younger generation has on the crisis. Especially useful, given the water-saving strategies that one is being urged to put in place, are such tips as:

“You could even take a much shorter shower

Then your Mom would save more money on power [and water, of course].”

However, the goal of spreading greater awareness among the young of how to cope with the numerous daunting challenges with which they, and their environs, are presented is a much broader one than having to cope with any single resource, however dire the current crisis might be.

The basic storyline of Sibo Makes a Difference reveals how Sibo’s school is inspired to start a recycling project by a visit from Earthman, an environmentalist, who urges them all to help save the world by doing whatever they can to help prevent global warming. Then, Sibo enlists the help of a friend to move the refrigerator in her Mom’s kitchen out of the sunlight to save on the amount of power it uses, much to her Mom’s chagrin. Though she ultimately gains her father’s support on this one, Sibo has a real struggle with getting his backing when she wants him to downgrade his much beloved, but gas-guzzling jeep to a more efficient form of transport. In short, the importance of gaining the support of children from a young age to help counter the universal threats that might otherwise undermine the very fabric of our socio-economic existence should not be underestimated.

The sooner that children learn

“If we each do just a few things per day

It will lessen the price that we all have to pay”

the better.

On a slightly lighter note, as with her other Sibo books, Stone makes the characters in Sibo Makes a Difference come alive and so easy to relate to that all children are likely to revel in the fun and spontaneity of the story. No doubt the author must have spent some time on coming up with the rhyming couplets in which the story is written, but it reads with such fluency and ease that one remains unaware of such challenges presented to the writing process.

The full-page illustrations support the text in the liveliest of ways, with many of them containing additional wording in bubble script, so that one gains the feeling that one is reading a comic, rather than a more formally structured book. The format should, consequently, definitely appeal to even the most reluctant of readers. In addition, the lilting metre of the rhyme lends itself to being read aloud, which should tangibly add to the mutual enjoyment of the text, especially in a school setting.

For computer-literate kids who are able to access such technology at, or after, school, some books in the Sibo series are available as free reads on the website. So, if they’re just reading one of the Sibo books in class, they can read all the others online, too! Great value for money, so, whether you’re an anxious Mom who wishes that she knew better about how to prepare her children to face the lifelong challenges that lie ahead, a school teacher who wishes to encourage learners to improve their reading skills with memorable and highly accessible texts, or any concerned adult who wishes to encourage greater environmental awareness among the young, do buy at least one of the Sibo books and start your kids reading today!

Lois Henderson welcomes as our guest Ginny Stone, author of fourteen books in the Sibo series, who combines a hectic home life with being secretary/treasurer of the Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC).

Lois: Good day Ginny, and thanks so much for participating in our interview. Please explain the background to your writing of Sibo Makes a Difference.

Ginny: I wrote Sibo Makes a Difference when we first moved from Cape Town to Springs (East Rand) and I had left my lovely busy job managing the science education and outreach section at iThemba LABS and was a tad depressed. So, I found things to keep me busy. Global warming was a hot topic, but not quite so in-your-face then as it is now, and I thought kids needed to know about it. I also knew that there were not many resources for kids, and so I originally thought it would be a great thing to give to the DST (Department of Science and Technology) to hand out in science centres.

Lois: Please provide a synopsis of the plot of Sibo Makes a Difference.

Ginny: The Earthman (a mythical character) comes to visit Sibo’s school, and tells the kids about how badly messed up the planet is, and gives them ideas on how to help the planet out. Sibo takes this information to heart, and goes home, and implements some changes that don’t exactly thrill her parents, but they realise she is right, and they go along with her ideas.

Lois: What were your major challenges with writing Sibo Makes a Difference?

Ginny: This was my first book, so it was a bit of a mission to get it published. A friend of mine had suggested that I send the manuscript to another author friend she knew, and passed over her details. I sent it – and she annihilated me on so many different levels that I just put it aside for months. Then I started chatting to James Clarke (then a columnist for The Star), and he read it and encouraged me to send it to the publishing house that had published his books. I did – and they sent me back a thanks-but-no-thanks letter, and suggested that I try somewhere else. I asked if they were just being polite – they said no – it was just not what they were looking for – and gave me the PASA (Publishers Association of South Africa) website details. I emailed five publishers, and two contacted me on the very next day. Peter Sanderson from Let’s Look called me, and I spoke to him first (then read an email from the other guys). I never dreamed it would be the beginning of such a long and lovely relationship.  I also started out doing the illustrations myself, which, once I finally found my lovely Let’s Look Publishers, were declared dodgy, and were redone by a professional. This was great, because from then on I could always just concentrate on the story line.

Lois: What were your highlights with your writing of Sibo Makes a Difference?

Ginny: Too funny – this was the first book in South Africa published for children on the topic of global warming that I could find (2008) – so that was a bit of a thrill. It was also the first book I had ever had published, which was a highlight all of its own. On top of all of that – we launched it at the Cape Town Science Centre (it was still the MTN Science Centre in those days) at Century City in conjunction with 3 other ‘greenish’ books. My lovely friend, Christina Scott, who had been so very positive when I first wrote the book (and who died in a tragic accident a few years later) was wickedly in charge of this fun event. I felt a bit like a superstar having written a book – something I had always wanted to do.


What do you think?


Written by Lois Henderson

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