Book review: How many ways can you say Hello?

How many ways can you say, ‘This is a gorgeous book’? How many ways can you say, ‘It couldn’t have come a moment too soon for South Africa’ and ‘I want to read it to my daughter every day, forever’? I wonder if you know?

In case you haven’t gathered from my enthusiasm, I absolutely love Refiloe Moahloli’s debut children’s book How many ways can you say Hello?

It is clever, fun to read, rhythmic, inclusive, and magnificently illustrated by the ultra-talented Anja Stoeckigt. It also features one of the prettiest spreads I have ever seen, featuring proteas. (Tip for author: Make that spread a poster!)

What’s it about?

Well, Sara starts at a new school. Loads of things are unfamiliar and mysterious, but she’s most perturbed by the fact that she doesn’t understand all of the languages being spoken. She worries about being able to make new friends, when she doesn’t even know how to say Hello in another tongue.

Mrs Hubble, Sara’s teacher, suggests that Sara make this quest her holiday project, and off she goes in a hot air balloon to meet new people in unfamiliar places, and to learn their unique greetings.

Spanning areas in South Africa where Venda, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Swati, Zulu, Tsonga, Ndebele, Pedi, Tswana, Sotho, and English are spoken, Sara’s journey introduces her – and her new friends – to 11 ways to say Hello.

Anything else?

There’s a nice extra touch for parents/grandparents/care-givers who aren’t sure how to pronounce ‘Hello’ in all 11 official languages: a CD of the text, narrated by the author, who offers authentic pronunciation.

How many ways can you say Hello? is available at all good bookstores, thanks to Penguin Random House South Africa.

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