Let’s Sing our Heroes: A Comparison of Biographical Series for Children in Kenya and South Africa

Dr. Muriungi, C. K


In this article two series of biographies written for children, and dealing with prominent personalities in Kenya and South Africa, are com­pared. In the line of argumentation developed the aim is to examine the main features in these biographies, and to indicate the importance of biographies in the general field of children’s literature. By examining a sample text from each series the specific ways in which the authors mould these personalities into heroes of their countries are scrutinised. Furthermore the way in which gender is represented in the two series is also examined and it is argued that both men and women form part of any country’s heroes. Underlying the main argument of the article is the contention that biographies are important in perpetuating the stories of the two countries’ heroes: also in teaching the history of each country to the young. A general motif of hard work resonates in these works, and therefore it is asserted that individuals’ biographies can be used as anecdotes to communicate with, and to inspire and encourage young readers. The authors of the biographies actually intervene by presenting children with role models. Furthermore these role models are not abstract fictional characters but real human beings who made great sacrifices for their countries – people with whom children thus are enabled to identify. 

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