FOR three decades, I’ve attended media events and, on almost every occasion, been given a name-tag to identify myself to other attendees. The tags have always announced, ‘Penny Haw Journalist’, ‘Penny Haw Writer’, ‘Penny Haw Media’, ‘Penny Haw Freelance Journalist’, ‘Penny Haw Freelance Writer’ or some other minor variation of the aforementioned. The other day, however, I went to an event and was given a tag that says, ‘Penny Haw Author’.
You see, I wrote book, which has been published by Penguin Random House South Africa. It’s a little book of just 180 pages that tells the story (in her voice) of my maternal grandmother, Alice Kirk and her life with a vervet monkey called Nicko. It’s based on a true story and describes the adventures of Nicko and his many friends on my grandmother’s farm in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in South Africa. (By the way, the farm is in the Lufafa Valley, which is described in the opening pages of Alan Paton’s Cry The Beloved Country.) Nicko’s four-legged friends include an African polecat (skunk), a duiker (small antelope), an African wild cat and several domesticated dogs and cats.
Aside from being something of an animal adventure story, *Nicko – The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm also explains my grandmother’s philosophy of not taking in wild animals for the sake of having exotic pets. She only took them in to nurse them to health or maturity. They were never caged or chained, and were free to leave to join their own species whenever they were ready.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Petra Langner, who is married to farmer and lives on a farm in Williston in the Northern Cape. It is written for animal lovers of all ages, but also as a self-reader for children between the ages of eight and 12, and a chapter-a-night bedtime story for younger children.
I hope readers will get half as much pleasure from Nicko as I did writing it, and if you think you recognise me out and about, say ‘hello’ – I’ll be the one wearing the tag that says, ‘Penny Haw Author’.
* You can order a hardcopy of Nicko – The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm here http://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za/book/nicko-tale-vervet-monkey-african-farm/9781432307592 or an ebook version here https://www.amazon.com/Nicko-Tale-Vervet-Monkey-African-ebook/dp/B072Y12HZP/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=