“There once was a little dikkop that had spotted wings and knobbly knees, and a tiny voice that squeaks.” So begins a story Corlie Roux tells her brother Gert and “one or two other children” at an internment camp in Kroonstad. The British have invadedSouth Africaand are driving Boer families like Corlie’s out of their farms and into internment camps (women and children) or war prisons (men). It wasn’t as if this had come out of nowhere – Boer families have lived in fear of British invasion for a while, and many Boer men, including Corlie’s father, have already died defending their land.
Corlie is a brave girl. When faced with British soldiers, she wishes she could fight with the men instead of having to hide with the women and children. She says she wants to be a pirate when she grows up. And she tells stories, indulging her imagination and delighting Gert, even as her mother warns her that a girl should focus more on household chores and less on “spinning lies.” Her Ma admonishes her to be more practical, but it is Corlie’s stories that help her and Gert deal with such a horrific situation as war. Corlie tells the story of the dikkop because “my brother and I had seen all we needed to see of human suffering, and it was the wild beasts of the veld that helped us escape into our memories.” And so she spins tales.
See, the little dikkop is thirsty, but the lake is guarded by much larger and stronger animals like hippos and rhinos. The dikkop has wings, but is too afraid to fly. Then a klipspringer comes along and offers to help the dikkop get a drink. Can the dikkop trust the klipspringer? More importantly, should the dikkop take the klipspringer’s advice and work with the hippos and rhinos rather than fear them? Like the dikkop, Corlie meets a Canadian soldier who appears sympathetic. And like the dikkop, Corlie must decide if perhaps the British aren’t so different from her after all, and if the Anglo-Boer war isn’t a simple, black and white battle of good vs evil.
In Stones for My Father, Trilby Kent tells the story of a brave young girl forced to grow up far too early. This is a good book for children ages 9 and up who are interested in historical fiction. It’s a touching look at the Anglo-Boer War from the perspective of a child, and Kent even includes a short epilogue about the war, which provides helpful background information to readers who, like me, are unfamiliar with that point in history. Stones for My Father uses the gritty realism of such details as maggots in the flour to express the need to escape into fantasy once in a while, and more importantly, the need to try as hard as you can to hold on to childhood as along as possible.
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Enjoyed your review. Thanks.
This book sounds very interesting. I love historical fiction. This time period is so frightening. I can’t imagine the suffering people who have survived must have experienced.