Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Book Review: Bom Boy

One of the great things about books is that they can sit on your bookshelf, unassuming and sharing none of their magic for months on end until one day out of some sense of boredom you pick them up and they captivate you from the first sentence. At least that’s the case with me and Yewande Omotoso’s Bom Boy. This is the sort of book that you inhabit while you’re reading it and its pages feel like home. The plot is not complex in any way but the story Omotoso tells breathes with a life of its own. It’s books like these that remind you why human beings love stories.

Bom Boy is the story of Leke, a socially awkward young man who is haunted by a family curse inherited from his father. It’s the story Elaine and Oscar, Leke’s parents and how that curse affected them. It’s also the story of Jane and Marcus, Leke’s adoptive parents. At its roots this is simply (and therein also lies the complexity) the story of people dealing with their situations by whatever means they can. It’s simply life.

Bom Boy is beautifully written and will haunt you like the family curse haunts Leke. This is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who likes stories, which is to say everyone.

Yewande Omotoso
Omotoso was born in Bar- bados and raised in Nigeria. She has a Nigerian father, West Indian mother and two brothers. She is an architect; space and buildings being a passion of hers second to literature. She lives in Cape Town working as a designer, writer and novelist.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Dogtective William

I spend most of my time with stories: whether it's in the form of reading books, comics, watching movies or playing video games. I share stories with friends, family and enemies too; usually assisted by copious amounts of alcohol to do so.

All these things don't make money for me though so I bookwormed my way into publishing and thus by day I spend my time in the editorial office of the children's books division of a fairly large publishing house. I get to work with stories and that soothes my soul even on those days when I don't feel like leaving the comfort of my bed to deal with the difficulties of publishing books.

Some days are just glorious though and at the end of the deadlines you find lifelines and get to do cool stuff like this voice over I did for our Dogtective William series of books. It's hell of a cute and was fun to do.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Sci-fi space opera with Guardians of the Galaxy

Hello lovable goodbuddies :)

Have I told you how much I love Guardians of the Galaxy? No?

Head over to and read my my review of this insanely fun space adventure: Sci-fi space opera with Guardians of the Galaxy.

I am Groot!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday Morning Saturday Morning Slow Jams

Good morning furry friendlings :).

(Well, it's still morning in Cape Town as I jot this down.)

It's Monday, it's cold and rainy. Needless to say I'd rather be home all sorts of curled up in bed with the last few pages of Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor before plunging back into my annual trip to Middle-earth.

Alas, it isn't so and work needs to be done. We are allowed to work with smiles on our faces though and that's what these Saturday Morning Slow Jams are bringing me on a Monday Morning.


That's a whopping five videos in one go! That's even cooler than Steve Sweat.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Throwing Our Storytelling Toys

I went to go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier some time ago and it was the best movie I saw thus far this year and that made me think about toys and storytelling. Sitting in that dark cinema watching a remarkably good comic book movie I realised that we are living in the best time in terms of seeing things that you could only imagine translated into visual stories.

Growing up reading fiction novels and comic books many people of my generation are at home living in their heads. All you needed to keep you busy for hours was a Lego set. Older generations can boast that they only needed a stick and a stone and that’s fine too. The point is that we were all happy mucking around with sticks or Lego blocks and building these vast landscapes in our minds where robots battled it out with monsters or whatever else. But then we grew up . . . We grew up and our toys were discarded and left to gather dust in a garage but we didn’t discard our imaginations.

Our movies, books, video games and even our toys are taken from the things we loved as children. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies may not have had good plots but I absolutely adore them for their visuals. Every single time I see an Autobot or Decepticon transform I smile. Those are the visuals that I had in my head as a child every time I played with a Transformers action figure or watched the cartoon. To this day I can’t get over how CGI took images I could only see in my head and plastered them onto screens. There’s a little magic about it. It’s like pizza, even if it’s bad it’s still nice to have.

Stories and how we tell them has always been very fascinating to me.  Movies are big business and Hollywood has gone back to your childhood to dig up all your old toys and is telling those stories on the big screen and it works for the most part. Marvel has successfully translated many of its comic franchises into film and they have many plans going forward. Guardians of the Galaxy is their next venture and they sure are being adventurous because the characters aren’t well known by general audiences. Marvel is good at taking their quirkier franchises and making good films though. When Iron Man came out lots of people didn’t know who he was.

DC is not having as good a time with their offerings failing more often than not but Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy sure did set the benchmark for gritty, realistic superhero movies. Everyone and their dog loves Batman but even as a kid reading the comics, watching the cartoons and playing with the action figures you know that the idea of a running around fighting crime dressed as a bat is ridiculous. Batman is probably my favourite comic book character but I’m the first to admit that he is the most ridiculous of the superheroes. You buy into though because it’s fun. Then Nolan sells it to you in a straight-up serious setting and it works. If you didn’t have a guy dressed as a bat the movies could simply be good action/thriller stories. Marvel did a great job with placing Captain America in a realistic setting in Winter Soldier as well. Take away the star spangled costume and Winter Soldier is just a really good spy flick. It’s an interesting dynamic, that, taking stories people think are for children and selling them to adults (and children still) as fun shoot-‘em-ups or taking them seriously as stories that could be entirely plausible.

Sad Batman is sad because he knows he is ridiculous.
No worries, we still love you, bro'.
It’s a great time to be alive and to see things you loved as a kid being reincarnated in ways that make you love them again or make you want to hire a squad of ninja pirates to assassinate everyone involved in ruining your favourite comic book (guys behind Green Lantern, I’m referring to you). You even get charming things like The Lego Movie! We’re throwing all our storytelling telling toys in the sandpit and having a great time playing with or just peeing on them. Life’s good.

Monday, 19 May 2014

culturecrit: Democracy on a Cellphone: Social Media's Role in t...

culturecrit: Democracy on a Cellphone: Social Media's Role in t...: How technology, social media and the internet intersect with democracy during voting season in South Africa.

When I'm not too busy jamming to my beloved Saturday Morning Slow Jams I'm over at Culturecrit thinking how cool thumbies are and what it is to be a voting citizen in a democratic country . . . well, democratic for the most part.

Head on over and give my article a read and share your thoughts if you have any.

Now I can go back to telling you about those Slow Jams.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Chip 'n Dale Saturday Slow Jam

It's those lovable chipmunks, Chip 'n Dale's turn to feature in a slow jam and it's all good in the hood.

Enjoy :).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Duck Tales Saturday Morning Slow Jam

Saturday mornings are when I sleep in till late in the afternoon and then wake up to bacon and eggs. I love Saturday mornings and they've just become better with Saturday Morning Slow Jams. This is one of the best things on the interwebs for me right now!

These guys kick you right in the childhood.

Vibe out to some Duck Tales lovin':

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

SA launches Charter on Children's Literacy Rights on World Book Day

SA launches Charter on Children's Literacy Rights on World Book Day

Click to view

The wonderful people over at Nal'ibali are launching a Charter on Children's Literacy Rights on World Book Day, Wednesday April 23, 2014. Reading through it made me smile and think how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to grow up reading.

Growing up I was a tall, skinny and nerdy kid. In primary school I was the only black kid in an Afrikaans school just straight after South Africa's first democratic elections. This was, of course, a weird period for everyone. My family was (and still mainly is) poor and I didn't really know it until I was in high school and when I knew it I was so used to not feeling poor that it didn't bother me much.

My life is very similar to that of many black kids from the time but it's also very different. I fell in love with reading, you see. I fell in love with stories and I would get my hands on them by all means possible. I spent hours at the library reading. Getting my first library card was one of the best things that have ever happened to me. That library card gave me access to dragons and spaceships.

I experienced bullying in school and hid in the library with my stories till I learnt a little courage from the lives of bullied characters in books. I read about standing up for yourself and over time got around to doing it. I looked up to the kids in the Narnia books, Tolkien's brave little hobbits and drew strength from Harry Potter and his friends. Many books continue inspire me to have a little more courage.

I experienced racism (from white kids and coloured kids in school) and didn't understand why it was happening. I was different and I didn't know why and so I read about racism and prejudice. I read till I understood enough not to be angry but to try and reach out and build friendships with people who didn't know what to do with the only black kid in school. I ended up making some great friends from all backgrounds in South Africa and many other corners of the world. Racism (from all sides) is still a big issue in South Africa but we are learning to love and understand each other a little over time and we should not allow ourselves to slide back into hatred. Nelson Mandela's writing is a wonderful look at overcoming hatred based on fear of people different from you. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom he wrote:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

When I had no money to do the things that other kids did, I read books and those stories took me to places more interesting than what reality had to offer. I have nothing against reality but I learnt to escape into fantasy realms and space age futures that just have a little more to offer. I learnt how to navigate reality by navigating fantasy and sci-fi.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: 

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape? . . . If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

This has been true for me. People thought I was weird and life would get hard because I was also a bit shy and awkward but I didn't mind because I had my books and the wonderful stories in them. I rarely got lonely because books kept me company. When given half a chance I did escape with as many people as I could. I talked about stories till people became sick of hearing about them and went and read them for themselves.

I spoke only Afrikaans and Xhosa as a child and learnt English by reading English. This did result in a lot of confusion with pronunciation and funny things tended to happen when I spoke English to native speakers. Now I speak English better than I do Afrikaans or Xhosa! So now I'm reading more in Afrikaans and Xhosa to balance it out.

I learnt more from books than I did from my family, friends and teachers.

I'm still a little shy and awkward. I'm still weird. But I have managed to convince some people that this is alright and so I have many more friends now than I had starting out. I have done more stuff now but I still love books and reading continues to be one of the most enjoyable and informative activities for me.

Books and the stories they contain are the best thing to have happened to me and every child in the world deserves a chance to discover and fall in love with that magic. This is not the case but we should always strive towards reaching that goal. I work in publishing now and work with children's and youth books and that is my way of trying to keep spreading the magic of stories.

Organisations like Nal'ibali, PUKU, WOW and IBBY (who have invited me to join their Executive Committee, which they don't realise is my first step to world dominance) are doing great things to make books easily accessible to children. Help these organisation if you can or just read to a random kid in the street. The latter suggestion could make for a creepy situation though.