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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
A Good Day for Climbing Trees
by Jaco Jacobs
Age Range: 9-11
Thirteen-year-old Marnus is tired of feeling invisible and living in the shadow of his two brothers. His older brother Donovan is good at breaking swimming records and girls’ hearts, while his younger brother Adrien has an entrepreneurial streak; renting out Donovan to the girls of the neighbourhood for kissing lessons and tricking Marnus into doing the dishes for the whole summer.
When a girl called Leila turns up on the doorstep one morning with a petition to save a tree which is going to be cut down to make way for a pipeline, Marnus is curious. He follows Leila to their local park and ends up joining her up in the branches of the tree to stage a protest and save it from the bulldozers. Finally, it seems, Marnus will get a chance to be noticed.
A Good Day for Climbing Trees is a funny and heart-warming story by Afrikaans author Jaco Jacobs, adeptly translated by Kobus Geldenhuys and illustrated with black and white artwork from Jim Tierney. Charmingly quirky, with an array of colourful characters from the eccentric Mrs Merriman, always dressed in pink with her two poodles Trixie and Georgie, John the caretaker of the bowls club, the irascible men from the municipality and the student eco warriors who join the campaign to save the tree. There is also an underlying subtext to the story: Leila’s reason for choosing this particular tree, which turns out to have a special meaning both for her and her mother. Nevertheless, this story carries a message that pits environmental protection against progress which is an ever present issue in the modern world. Jacobs presents an inspiring novel about two children who take a stand and fight for what they believe in.
A Good Day for Climbing Trees was one of the winners of the BookTrust’s In Other Words project for books in translation in 2017.