Children's Literature in Southern Africa

Nikki McDiarmid reviews 'Bobby'

girl with dog

A Story of Heartache and Love.

Bobby is a handsome German Shepherd who narrates the dramatic tale of his own life as a dog in Johannesburg.

Experiencing major upheavals when his owner is murdered, Bobby is passed from one family to another, his journey both heartbreaking and deeply touching. As he searches for another meaningful connection with a human, Bobby’s life runs parallel to that of a teenage girl, Jessie. Grieving for a pet she has lost, Jessie’s heart is broken and her life is deemed not worth living.

Destined to save each other, both are on a pilgrimage fraught with gut-wrenching hardships and terrible choices, so brilliantly written that the reader is swept along on a tide of emotion and love.

No matter how difficult this story for some, Bobby is impossible to put down and so very beautiful to read.

We are poignantly reminded of why animal friendships are so necessary, for in essence they teach us about our own humanity. Profoundly confrontational on every level, Elizabeth Pienaar holds nothing back as she raises questions that make us look harder at ourselves - as a people, as a culture and as a nation.

Keeping the story simple, but remaining honestly brutal, Pienaar exposes the shocking treatment that dogs endure in this country, making the reader ask “Where is South Africa’s compassion?”

Do we weep for our animals or do we weep for ourselves? With stories of abuse everywhere, are South Africans able to face them, or do we really turn away? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to deal with them too? For how else do we change the mind-set of a nation gone astray?

While the reading of this tale is almost cathartic, it cuts to the very core. Ultimately, the pain of owning a pet is in both loving and losing them, but the greatest blessing in life is the love that comes with accepting that loss and Elizabeth Pienaar unfolds this balance with the most delicate care.

There is no better way to teach our children compassion for animals and South Africans should request Bobby as a set work, explored not only by students, but also by their parents and educators.

Challenging our understanding of animals while at the same time helping us to reconnect, this tale is for anyone who has loved a dog.

Bobby will change you forever.

The Author:

Elizabeth Pienaar is a Johannesburg-based writer, architect and mother. She has won the HSBC/SA Pen Award in 2005, been short-listed in the European Union Literary Awards in 2006 and the Sanlam Youth Literature Award in 2012. She has attended the Caine Prize Workshop in Kenya in 2007, and Breadloaf Writer’s Conference in the USA in 2012.

She has published online in International Pen Magazine (2006), African Writing Online (2008), and Sentinel Literary Quarterly (2011)and her short stories have appeared in the anthologies African Compass (2005), African Roads (2006), Jungfrau and other Short Stories (2007), Open (2008), and Minttutoffeen onni / The Pleasures of Peppermints, a Finnish-English collaboration (2012).

5/14/2014 8:13:23 AM
5/24/2014 4:27:52 PM

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