Beverley Naidoo

Who is King?

“Poor animals working for Leopard
      Kiri bamba kiri
Silly animals working for Leopard
      Kiri bamba kiri.....
Save your strength for your own plots
      Kiri bamba kiri
Save your breath for your own crops
      Kiri bamba kiri
Why break your backs for Leopard?”

Trickster Tortoise, mighty Elephant, lazy Ox, mischievous Monkey, boastful Cockerel, hapless Hippo, the woman who had a mouse-child – and two brave, clever girls!

Here are ten vibrant stories from across Africa - Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Enjoy song and dance, jokes, tricks, magic and more.

Delightfully illustrated by award-winning artist Piet Grobler, this is Beverley and Piet’s third book together. It follows their successful Aesop’s Fables and The Great Tug of War.

There are more than 2,000 languages spoken across Africa.  Each story here was first told in one of these languages before someone translated it into English. Some of these stories may be thousands of years old. When stories are retold and passed on, bits may get changed. But the heart of a good story lives on.

The animals in these stories are very much like humans. They are at times foolish or wise, mischievous or kind, jealous or generous. They make mistakes and sometimes have to be very brave to get out of trouble. African folktales always invite us to talk about how characters behave. 

I hope you will want to hear these tales again... and again. Maybe you will retell them yourselves. You can act them out, with your own singing and dancing. Enjoy them!

from 'Dear Reader' by the Author


Who is King? is published in South Africa by Jacana Media in Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Sesotho.  In the UK and USA, it is a Janetta Otter Barry book published by Frances Lincoln

Every one of the vivaciously told stories reads aloud beautifully... A superb volume that can be enjoyed in many settings – home or school, around a camp fire even.

Books for Keeps

There is much wisdom to be found here and much pleasure in finding it.

United Kingdom Literacy Association

Piet Grobler’s richly patterned and coloured illustrations combine precision and playfulness...full of wit and imagination.

Sunday Times

African Studies Association Children’s Africana Best Book for Older Readers, USA 2016

UKLA Book Awards Longlist 2016