Subtitle: A children's trilogy
Author: Dorian Haarhoff
Publisher: New Namibia Books
Soft-cover, 15x21 cm, 31 pages, throughout bw-illustrations
The Mud Hole.
Legs, Bones and Eyes, A Children's Trilogy is written by Dorian Haarhoffand illustrated Helga Hoveka. These three stories for children are about rites of passage. Legs runs two important races, one for her Uncle Udi and one for herself. Simo and Sinde reluctantly help a bitter and lonely old man and in the process discover something about their own natures. Short-sighted Ringo, helped by his pet chameleon, Camo, uses his ears and eyes and saves his school from disaster.
Dorian Haarhoff, a Namibian children's writer and a poet, has four children who have taught him about stories. His other children's stories are Desert December (Songololo, Cape Town, and Clarion, New York) and Water from the Rock (Build a Book Collective and New Namibia Books). Helga Hoveka is an award winning Namibian artist. She has illustrated several books and has recently worked on children's television programmes.
Legs' Race "Run ... Legs ... run," chanted Uncle Udi. "She runs like a cheetah," said her uncle proudly to the people standing nearby. "Her left shoulder drops as her right leg drives forward." Legs was running through Zoo Park, training for the big race. Her name was really Lepandi but everybody called her Legs. Except her mother. Legs loved to run.
The race started next Saturday in Zoo Park. You ran out of the park gate. Then you had to run up the hill, round the church, past the whitewashed fort, through the school grounds, past the stone castle, down the steep road and back into the park. The finishing point was right at the place where the old dinosaur bones had been dug up. Ten kilometres from start to finish.
Last year Legs had finished in tenth place. This time she wanted to be in the first five. All week Legs had dreamt about running the race. On Wednesday night in a dream she was struggling through the Namib Desert, sand up to her hips. The next night she was running a three-legged race with her uncle who kept on tripping her up. She woke in the hot room, wondering what the dreams meant.
Uncle Udi was a large man, short of breath. Legs liked him but did not want him as a running partner. She was sure about that. "He's not only large, he's lazy," said Legs' mother. The afternoon before the race there was a thunderstorm. The heat broke as thunder cracked the earth like a whip. Rain bounced off the hard ground outside Legs' home and fell on the corrugated roof.
Everybody welcomed the rain. Uncle Udi moved into the middle of the street, his shirt blowing in the wind. Then he stretched out his palms, trying to catch rain drops. "It's a sign ... a sign that you will win tomorrow!" he shouted. "Just listen to the rain on the roof. It's applauding your victory."
"I don't have to win. I just want to come in the first five," Legs told her uncle. That night the electrical power failed and the phones in that part of town stopped ringing. The storm had damaged the cables. They ate supper by candlelight. Legs sat with her mother, her brother, Rudi, and Uncle Udi who lived with them. He had moved in a week ago, all of a sudden, to be near the hospital for treatment. Uncle Udi's heart was giving him problems. It beat like a tired alarm clock. Legs' mother was still trying to adjust to having him around.
Legs pushed her food round the patterns on her plate. "Don't you like the spaghetti, Lepandi?" asked her mother. "I'm not very hungry ..." said Legs. "You need energy for the race," urged Uncle Udi. Uncle Udi gulped his third slice of bread with fish paste. He smeared it on so thickly that you could not see a single crumb underneath.
"Why do you eat so much fish paste, Uncle Udi?" Legs asked him. "As a young man I worked at the canning factory at Walvis Bay. The Pilchard Packing Co-op. We also made paste. Those were happy days, Legs, happy days." Her uncle looked to the West as if he could see, smell and hear the sea. He burped.
Rudi giggled under his breath. Their mother scraped her chair. The noise was to remind the children to behave. "I was the best burper in the canning factory. They called me Udi the Burp. Then a visiting Japanese seaman took my title away from me." [...]