Arabella to be published late July!

Arabella BookmarkThe good news is that Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut is to be published by Tafelberg and will be available in shops from July 24 this year!


Arabella is an eleven year old girl who lives in a quite ordinary house in Parkview near the Zoo Lake.  Sadly, her father dies of cancer and she is left alone with her mother.

Arabella is very sad, but one night an eagle crashes into her window.  It is a strange event, but she thinks little of it until one day she hears a mealie lady calling.  Khanyi, the mealie lady, gives her a special message that is written in the silvery threads on the inside of the green leaves of the mealie.  It is from the world of the sky, the world of magic, the world she used to dream of but which she has forgotten in her sadness.  The message tells her that she will receive a gift that day which she must Trust and Believe in.

Zuzi, the baby monkey who always accompanies Khanyi, delves into her shopping cart filled with mealies and hands Arabella a magical mongongo nut that comes from deep in the Kalahari desert.

Ukhozi, the eagle, returns that night to be her guide into the world of magic that exists as a parallel world that few humans are chosen to enter.  It turns out that Ukhozi is new to being a guide and his first attempt at contacting Arabella led to him crashing through her window as his flying skills were a little shaky!

Through the magic of Queen of the Sky, Ngwedi, the moon, on the nights that she is horned like a cow, Arabella is able to enter the world of magic.  The mongongo nut grows into a beautiful tree whose gorgeous flowers Khanyi uses to make a muti that transforms Arabella into a butterfly.

From that night Arabella starts learning to fly and begins an enchanted journey into the world of magic that is parallel to her life as a little girl.  She meets all sorts of allies and mentors including Jongoo, the songololo, Mr. Sweet-Steps the chameleon, and a sad, but brave Parktown Prawn.  However, in the world of magic there are villains, too – the noisy, aggressive hadedas led by their evil king Ozymandias.

In the library at her school, St. Simian’s, Arabella discovers the Book of Echoes, which can reveal both the past and the present and many secrets in between, depending on which way you open it.  Soon, Mrs. Chacma, the headmistress, reveals that the library has been ransacked and no one knows who has done it.

Arabella knows it is the hadedas who have stolen the Book of Echoes from the library because they believe in its pages lies the secret of how to change the past.  But Khanyi and Ukhozi and the others know that no magic can ever be strong enough to change the past – or are they wrong?  The secret lies on p123 of the Book of Echoes and the power to unleash that secret lies only with Arabella and her parallel lives both as a girl and a magic butterfly.

Ozymandias and his raucous hadedas plan to use Arabella to gain the power to change the past and remake the world in their own image.  As a little girl, she has to choose which path to follow in the world of magic: that of the temptations of the hadedas, which she believes might bring her father back to life – or that of her friends who warn her of the dangers she is about to face if she chooses to follow the hadedas.

The story ends with a huge battle in the skies over the Hillbrow Tower between Arabella and her friends and the hadedas against the backdrop of a raging Highveld thunderstorm.


While it may seem strange that a war correspondent and thriller author has chosen to write a children’s story let me first say that I was inspired to write this story by thriller writer Ian Fleming who wrote ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ for his kids.  The idea for the story came to me while we were renovating our home and our beautiful house and garden were turned into a chaotic mud patch.  It was a way of distracting my lovely stepchildren from the quite unsettling time for them when they had no garden to play in and, at one point, no bedrooms either!  Arabella’s journey, though, became more complex and exciting than I had expected – as all magic tends to do!

It is a story that is unashamedly South African.  The imagery and magical symbolism shift between Western and African motifs quite comfortably – just as kids growing up in our society today are able to do and also expect to do as they access different cultures. 

The story is fast-paced and the plotting is tight as the story draws its readers in.  It is aimed at the tweeny market – especially for girls who are often voracious readers at that age.  Interestingly, I have received nothing but the most extremely positive responses from South Africans who have either read snippets of the manuscript in its early stages or whom I have told about the concept.   What these South Africans have been most keen on is that it is a story set in their own milieu where the magic and the fantasy are drawn from their country and their world.