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Little Hands

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Sven Eick’s formative reading experiences

Once upon a time not very long ago, before he dreamed of being a ryhthm guitarist in the coolest band on earth, before he ended up writing the satirical thriller Apetown, Sven Eick had little hands and this is what he read …

Sven’s earliest memory of books and reading:

From an early age I was hooked on non-fiction. My sister and I had a series of A5 sized books published by Ladybird dealing with subjects as diverse as castles, Greek mythology (Jason and the Golden Fleece) and the human body. I remember a book on Florence Nightingale in particular, with its pictures of the Crimean War.

While I knew I liked non-fiction, my relationship with it was mostly visual, and I don’t believe that I read any one of the books from cover to cover until later. In fact I hadn’t read anything beyond a pre-primary school book to completion before I received my membership card for the Bedfordview library in Johannesburg.

My first brush with reading fiction involved Tintin: Explorers on the Moon – the first book I took out from the library. Despite winning points for having a rocket on the cover I found the Tintin experience a bit highbrow. However, Herge’s work proved to be the gateway to the world of Asterix, and within months I had developed an interest in the exploits of Asterix – once again at a purely visual level.

I finally made my reading breakthrough one Saturday morning when I felt compelled to actually see what the characters in Asterix and Cleopatra were going on about, and read the book from cover to cover. I then went back and re-read all the other Asterix books in my family’s possession, worked through the Tintin series, then took the step up to the works of Enid Blyton.

Sven’s picture books:

Unfortunately I can’t remember many of the titles of books read to me when I was a small child. I remember beautifully illustrated books about a boy and a girl who would visit the seaside or forest and marvel at the wildlife. I was also a fan of illustrated Disney books, and was particularly fascinated by the Haunted House (which inspired a period of enthusiastic but poorly received skeleton drawing at nursery and pre-primary school).

Sven, as an adult, reading with children:

I have read to my nieces Lilly and Mira once or twice. Both of them them are easily more intelligent than I am, so I remember finding the experience to be somewhat awkward as they seemed more interested in watching me read and attempt to put on strange voices than in what it was that I was reading.

Aya: An award-winning graphic novel out of Africa
Aya written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clement Oubrerie was published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2007.

The graphic novel Aya tells the story of its 19-year old heroine, the studious and clear-sighted Aya, her easy-going friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. It’s a breezy and wryly funny account of the desire for joy and freedom, and of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City, a suburb of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. An unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see-spirited, hopeful and resilient.

Aya has just won the 2008 Children’s Africana Book Awards.

See more at about Aya and a database of a 1000 other childrens books from Africa at Africa Access.

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    October 14th, 2008 @10:40 #

    I feel you're holding something back, Sven. None of this explains ... oh, wait, The Haunted House... that 70s brand of Disney was a lot grittier than these days'.

  • Sven
    October 14th, 2008 @11:14 #

    I still get a kick out of looking at the cover of the Haunted House. Louis, the kink in my mind was put there by the likes of Anthony Horowitz, Douglas Hill, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and the Readers Digest Book of Strange Stories and Amazing Facts (a list which is not in chronological order).

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    October 14th, 2008 @11:30 #

    What about the kink in Cleopatra's nose? Gazing at those pics must have had some sort of subliminal impact...

  • Sven
    October 14th, 2008 @11:41 #

    You're definitely on to something there Helen. Combine it with the kink in Tintin's cow's lick and a firm foundation has been laid for a life of deviance.


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