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Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story

Overview

If only Mma was here, Naledi wished over and over. . .

Mma lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother, Tiro, call home. When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn't until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful ...

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Overview

If only Mma was here, Naledi wished over and over. . .

Mma lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother, Tiro, call home. When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn't until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity that is taking place all around them.

Separated from their mother by the harsh social and economic conditions prevalent among blacks in South Africa, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother make a journey of over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Naledi, 13, and her younger brother Tiro live with their grandmother and their aunt while their mother works in far-away Johannesburg. When Dineo, their baby sister, gets sick, Naledi and Tiro decide to find Mma (mother in Tswana) and bring her home. The trip takes several days, carrying them into a world that is both larger than they imagined, and more restricted for blacks than they ever thought possible. Mma is located; she goes home with them, even though her white employer threatens to hire a new maid in her absence. Mma takes Dineo to the hospital, and the baby lives. Naledi has begun her own journey: she has witnessed an innocent black youth's arrest; she met Grace, who has lost family in the struggle for freedom. And she gains a new understanding of her country. There are many viewpoints in this story: Mma is trying to survive; Grace struggles for dignity. But the author's gift is in translating violent TV images into a provocative, eloquent story about the human spirit, from its first flicker to full flame. (912)
Children's Literature
Naledi's mother works in Johannesburg, far from the village where she and her brother, Tiro, and sister Dineo live. A dilemma presents itself to Naledi—her baby sister is ill and she just knows that without her mother's help her baby sister will die. Johannesburg is over 300 kilometers from their village and she has no money to take the bus or train. She decides that walking is the only way. It should not be that difficult since it takes her an hour to walk to school every day. She and Tiro set out on this impossible journey. They experienced kindness and help from people along the way, but they also are exposed to the horrors of apartheid when they arrived in the city. People were arrested because they do not have their pass. They observe school children marching and protesting against the curriculum taught in the schools. Many were killed and wounded. She comes to realize that there are dangers in her country and that her countrymen are struggling for freedom. Her mother returns with them and saves her baby sister but the strength of the story is wrapped around her discovery that all is not as it should be in her country. 2003 (orig. 1986), HarperTrophy,
— Leila Toledo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064402378
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 97
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 111,314
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.56 (h) x 0.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverley Naidoo grew up in South Africa under apartheid. She says: "As a white child I didn't question the terrible injustices until I was a student. I decided then that unless I joined the resistance, I was part of the problem." Beverley Naidoo was detained without trial when she was twenty-one and later went into exile in Britain, where she has since lived.

Her first children's book, Journey to Jo'burg, was banned in South Africa until 1991, but it was an eye-opener for thousands of readers worldwide. Her characters in Chain of Fire, No Turning Back, and Out of Bounds face extraordinary challenges in a society she describes as "more dangerous than any fantasy." She has won many awards for her writing, including the Carnegie Medal, the Jane Addams Book Award, and the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults for The Other Side of Truth, about two refugee children smuggled to London who are also featured in Web of Lies.

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Read an Excerpt

Naledi's Plan


Naledi and Tiro were worried. Their baby sister, Dineo, was ill, very ill. For three days now, Nono, their granny, had been trying to cool her fever with damp cloths placed on her little head and body. Mmangwane, their aunt, made her take sips of water, but still their sister lay hot and restless, crying softly at times.

"Can't we take Dineo to the hospital?" Naledi begged, but Nono said Dineo was much too sick to be carried that far. The only hospital was many kilometers away, and Naledi also knew they had no money to pay a doctor to visit them. No one in the village had that much money. "If only Mma was here," Naledi wished over and over as she and Tiro walked down to the village tap with their empty buckets. She tightly clutched the coins in her hand.

Each morning the children had to pass the place of graves on their way to buy the day's water, and only last week another baby in the village had died. It was always scary seeing the little graves, but especially this fresh one now.

As they came nearer, Naledi fixed her eyes on the ground ahead, trying not to look, trying not to think. But it was no use. She just couldn't stop herself thinking of her own little sister being lowered into a hole in the ground.

Finally Naledi could stand it no longer. When they had returned with the water, she called Tiro to the back of the house and spoke bluntly.

"We must get Mma, or Dineo is going to die!"

"But how?" Tiro was bewildered.

Their mother worked and lived in Johannesburg, more than 300 kilometers away.

"We can get to the big road and walk," Naledi replied calmly.

It was school vacation now,but during the term it took the children more than an hour to walk to school each day, so they were used to walking. Naledi wasn't going to let herself think how much longer it would take to get to Johannesburg.

Tiro, however, was not so sure.

"But Nono doesn't want us to worry Mma and I know she won't let us go!"

"That's just it," Naledi retorted quickly. "Nono and Mmangwane keep saying Dineo will be better soon. You heard them talking last night. They say they don't want to send Mma a telegram and frighten her. But what if they wait and it's too late?"

Tiro thought for a moment.

"Can't we send Mma a telegram?"

"How can we if we haven't the money? And if we borrow some, Nono will hear about it and be very cross with us."

It was clear that Naledi had made up her mind--and Tiro knew his sister. She was four years older than him, already thirteen, and once she had decided something, that was that.

So Tiro gave up reasoning.

The children went to find Naledi's friend Poleng, and explained. Poleng was very surprised but agreed to help. She would tell Nono once the children had gone and she also promised to help their granny by bringing the water and doing the other jobs.

"How will you eat on the way?" Poleng asked.

Tiro looked worried, but Naledi was confident.

"Oh, we'll find something."

Poleng told them to wait and ran into her house, returning soon with a couple of sweet potatoes and a bottle of water. The children thanked her. She was indeed a good friend.

Before they could go, Naledi had to get the last letter Mma had sent, so they would know where to look for her in the big city. Slipping into the house, Naledi took the letter quietly from the tin without Nono or Mmangwane noticing. Both were busy with Dineo as Naledi slipped out again.

The Road


The children walked quickly away from the village. The road was really just a track made by car tires-two lines of dusty red earth leading out across the flat, dry grassland.

Once at the big tar road, they turned in the direction of the early morning sun, for that was the way to Johannesburg. The steel railway line glinted alongside the road.

"If only we had some money to buy tickets for the train. We don't have even one cent." Tiro sighed.

"Never mind. We'll get there somehow!" Naledi was still confident as they set off eastward.

The tar road burned their feet.

"Let's walk at the side," Tiro suggested.

The grass was dry and scratchy, but they were used to it. Now and again, a car or a truck roared by, and then the road was quiet again and they were alone. Naledi began to sing the words of her favorite tune and Tiro was soon joining in.

On they walked.

"Can't we stop and eat?" Tiro was beginning to feel sharp stabs of hunger. But Naledi wanted to go on until they reached the top of the long, low hill ahead.

Their legs slowed down as they began the walk uphill, their bodies feeling heavy. At last they came to the top and flopped down to rest.

Hungrily they ate their sweet potatoes and drank the water. The air was hot and still. Some birds skimmed lightly across the sky as they gazed down at the long road ahead. It stretched into the distance, between fencedoff fields and dry grass, up to another far-off hill.

"Come on! We must get on," Naledi insisted, pulling herself up quickly.

She could tell that Tiro was already tired, but they couldn't afford to stop for long. the sun had already passed its midday position, and they didn't seem to have traveled very far.

On they walked, steadily, singing to break the silence.

But in the middle of the afternoon, when the road led to a small town, they stopped singing and began to walk a little faster. They were afraid a policeman might stop them because they were strangers.

Journey to Jo'burg. Copyright © by Beverley Naidoo. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 119 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Journey to Jo'Burg

    Naidoo, B. (1986). Journey to Jo'Burg: A South African Story. New York: HarperTrophy.

    0064402371

    Set in historical South Africa during the time of apartheid, Naledi and her brother Tiro worry about their sick younger sister. Certain that their sister needs a doctor, they decide to disobey their grandmother's wishes and leave their small town to journey to Johannesburg where their mother works as a servant to get her help.

    While on their journey the children are helped by several other black people along the way, but are cautioned about the rules of apartheid that are strictly enforced in the city. They also are exposed to the class and power relations and learn of the hope and rebellions for social change, most notably the Soweto Uprising of 1976.

    While the narrative is both short and fast-paced there are some plot holes. For example, at the very beginning of the story, Naledi and Tiro decide that because they would get in trouble for asking for money to pay for a telegram, they should walk to Johannesburg, a city over 300 kilometers away. Now call me crazy, this could be my own cultural background speaking, but wouldn't Grandma be a little more upset that you go on a journey to a strange and dangerous city without help or money than ask for some money to send a telegram? Maybe it's just me. I don't know.

    Published during the height of Apartheid in the mid-1980s, this book was banned in South Africa until 1990. This would be a wonderful book to use to help students think globally about issues of power and class. It could also be the basis for doing a comparison between Apartheid and segregation in the U.S.

    Activities to do with the book:

    In a social studies or history class, Journey to Jo'Burg could be used to compare and contrast the history of South Africa with that of the U.S.A. Similar themes include class divisions by race, segregation and apartheid, police abuse and brutality, the fight for civil rights, protests, etc. It could specifically trigger a lesson on protests like the Soweto Uprising, in which students protested the structurally racist and oppressive education system and were killed.

    Favorite Quotes:

    "Naledi and Tiro were worried. Their baby sister, Dineo was ill, very ill" (p. 1).

    "Why shouldn't we use the bus? When our buses are full, their buses are half empty. Don't you be sorry!" (p. 26).

    "All those lesson on writing letters.for jobs as servants.always writing how good they were at cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening.always ending with "Yours obediently."
    Naledi had never thought about it before tonight, but never, never, had she written about wanting to be.say, a doctor. Yes, that's what she'd like to be. Image how useful it would be if she became a doctor, especially in their own village. She could even look after her own family." (p. 72)

    For More of my reviews, visit sjkessel.blogspot.com.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Journey To Jo'burg

    Another baby has died in Naledi's village and Naledi knows that if she doesn't get help,her little sister Dineo will die too.But what can she do? She has no money, and there are no doctors in her village.Doctors in South Africa are a luxury for blacks,not a right!<BR/><BR/>Naledi must get to her mother in Johannesburg;it's Dineo only hope.Yet she has no money,no car,and Johannesburg is over 250 Kilometers away.She and her brother Tiro decide there's only one thing to do:they must walk.If they don't,Dineo might die!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    ' The book was very factual about real life.'

    When I first read this book, it was very interesting to see that this is probably true. Also, the book had alot of true life facts in it and I liked that. If this book had been written any other way, I think the author wouldn't have made any money on the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story

    i read this book back in elementary school and i didnt like it back then but i thought that i was young and didnt know alot and thought that i might like it more as a younge adult. but boy was i wrong!!!!!!! i still didnt like the book but the book has a ending that is very common in books and movies. it is always a happy ending. i was hoping that the ending would still be happy but end alittle different

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    Miguel (MLC STUDENT)

    I thought this book was extremely dissapointing. I didn't like the plot at all their little sister is sick and they need to go find their mother to make her better. I don't think it gives enough detail at all. It shouldn't be a school book because you don't learn anything. I think most people know that 50 years ago the South was segragated and black people had a very hard time. This book was more about Naledi and Tiro finding their mother so she can make their sister better. I think it was also a little unrealistic. Nono and Mmangwane didn't send for mother because they didn't want to worry her. How does that make any sense? Dineo may die and they are just concerned with keeping Mma stress free. What happens when she comes to visit and Dineo is dead? The characters were making really immature choices and the plot wasn't the greatest. Beyond that, the book was like a short story. It could have given more detail, and something other than a sick little sister to make Naledi get their mother, then I would have appreciated it a little more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2006

    My Review

    I think this book was very well written. It displayed characterization well and had a strong plot. I think this book was very interesting because it taught many lessons. This book was about how a thirteen year old and her younger brother walk to a white town to inform their mom that their baby sister is sick. Along the way, they learn about rascim and the disadvantages they have just because they are black. This story shows our history and in some cases the present. Overall, I liked this book because it taught lessons that everyone needs to learn.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Sad Story

    I thought that this book was not that great but was not that bad either. I thought it was sort of boring until the end when the baby was taken to the hospital. The most important part of the book to me was the ending. This is because the whole adventure that Nadedi just went on really comes down on her and she realizes that it is important for her to work hard and stay out of trouble so that she can have a good future.This might also help her get away from the racism that is displayed in the generation she lives in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    I did not like the book

    I thought that the book was really bad. My teacher said that it was a good book but i definately disagree. It was way to short and it didn't have any point to it at all. I don't get why the girl looked like a man either.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2006

    Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story

    i thought that the book could definetly have been writen better.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story

    Even though the book was okay i've read better. I liked it and i would recomend it to many younger students because it sort of explains the apartheid and expliains the tradgey that occured in South Africa. A lot of the thing in the book were important although i was kinda dissapointed because the book was 75 psged. But hey i'm not complaining.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    A very short read.

    After finishing this book in about four days, of reading during class,I thought that it could've been a lot better. First of all, the story was really short. I think some of the themes and main ideas would've been more understandable if they were more detailed in a longer version of the story. Secondly, if some of the events in the story were more detailed, it would be a lot eaiser to understand some major parts of the story such as the raid that the police did to check people's passes, and the discussion that the children had with Grace. were detailed more.In conclusion, the book overall sent the right message, but if the story had been a little bit more descriptive it would have been easier for any group of people to understand the books themes and main ideas throughout the development of the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    I really didn't like the book

    I didnt enjoy this book at all. i thought it was point less. it didnt appeal to me at all. this was a required for me to read. if i had saw this book in the store i wouldnt even look twice at it. even though some people might think that it is a good peice of literature i didnt like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Typical Read

    I would have to say that the short story 'Journey to Jo' Burg' was a great read. It's not typically something that I would read ,but it gives me more insight as to what African Americans had to go through. It's always interseting to read about the adventures that others had to go through and this is just on more example of it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Review of Journey to Jo'burg.

    I thought that Journey to Jo'burg was okay. It was not something I would have chosen to read on my own because of the whole concept of the story. I am more into books like Looking for Alaska, Things Change, Heavy Metal and you, ect. It was an okay book, but I personally did not enjoy it. Another thing I didn't like about Journey to Jo'burg was the use of a different language. That sometimes made the book difficult to understand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Great but not to Great

    I enjoyed this novel Journey to Jo'burg. There were just a few things that I didn't like. The novel didn't really capture my attention. Sometimes when I read a chapter it was boring and when I read another chapter it was pretty interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story

    Even though the book was okay i've read better. I liked it and i would recomend it to many younger students because it sort of explains the apartheid and expliains the tradgey that occured in South Africa.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2006

    must read before you buy the book

    I belive this book was ok but it was nothing special. it was too forward. There wasn't much symbolism. That made the book vary bland and boring. What I did like about the book is the visulizations. it painted a very clear image in your mind.that was a nice feature to this story. Another thing I did not like was how it was not very well elaborated. It told you the part of the story that needed explanation. Then it did not explain it very well. Those were my likes and dislikes of this particular book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2006

    Dissapointing

    I thought this book was extremely dissapointing. I didn't like the plot at all their little sister is sick and they need to go find their mother to make her better. I don't think it gives enough detail at all. It shouldn't be a school book because you don't learn anything. I think most people know that 50 years ago the South was segragated and black people had a very hard time. This book was more about Naledi and Tiro finding their mother so she can make their sister better. I think it was also a little unrealistic. Nono and Mmangwane didn't send for mother because they didn't want to worry her. How does that make any sense? Dineo may die and they are just concerned with keeping Mma stress free. What happens when she comes to visit and Dineo is dead? The characters were making really immature choices and the plot wasn't the greatest. Beyond that, the book was like a short story. It could have given more detail, and something other than a sick little sister to make Naledi get their mother, then I would have appreciated it a little more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    Journey To Jo'burg review

    I think that this book was interesting, but confusing. It did give good information about apartheid, but the story didn't go into what the 'pass' was. Also, it seemed very unlikely that they got a ride almost all of the way to Jo'burg. Plus, the story deviated from the main part of the plot, helping Dineo, when they talked about the schoolchildren marching. Besides these faults, though, Journey to Jo'burg is a very good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2006

    It was a good book

    Journey to Jo'burg was a good book. it showed the struggles that many people go through in South Africa everyday. This book is also one I recommend because it is very suspenseful and it is good literature.

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