South African children’s book creator Lebohang Masango has a fascinating book series on the cult favorite character named Mpumi. Available in the 11 official South African languages, the Mpumi book series teaches young kids literacy, language learning, and important daily skills.
We wanted to celebrate Masango’s book series through this booklist of her 7 Mpumi books published till now. We are sure there will be more to come as Masango’s series is quite popular with parents and young children alike!
The books are available in the 11 official South African languages – English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, Siswati, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. Masango’s series aims to expand children’s vocabulary about everyday objects and activities in their home language.
As a social anthropologist, Masango is aware of how books can help children understand the world they live in. She remarked to us in a statement:
The Mpumi series is inspired by my love for Johannesburg, some nostalgia from my childhood and Afro-textured hair. It’s really a love letter to the city which is often characterised as dangerous and grimy whereas it is also a space of fun, laughter and learning for children.
Masango began the book series with Mpumi’s Magic Beads, published in 2018 and written for children aged 5-10 years old. Soon after, Masango published Mpumi and Jabu’s Magical Day in 2020, whose aim was to teach deaf children to read in their home language. She collaborated on the book with Professor Claudine Storbeck, the Director for the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Mpumi’s Magic Beads was awarded the 2019 South African Literary Award for Children’s Literature, the 2019 Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award for Best Writer, and a 2020 gold Pendoring Advertising Award in the Publication Design – Whole Design category. Mpumi and Jabu’s Magical Day won the 2021 silver Pendoring Advertising Award in the Publication Design – Whole Design category.
Recently, Masango has collaborated with the illustrator Masego Morulane to co-create a set of four Mpumi books geared toward younger readers aged 3-6 years old. These books such as What Does Mpumi Eat?, What Does Mpumi Wear?, Can Mpumi Count?, and What is Mpumi’s Favourite Colour? teach children basic activities they perform daily as well as the foundations of math and the world around them. These books are charming interactive reads for the whole family!
Mpumi’s growth as a character is fun to witness, not just for us at Brittle Paper, but for all the children and parents out there who are growing up with the series! Masango shared with us that the series is quite close to her heart:
The journey with the Mpumi books has been incredibly special. My favourite thing is seeing children’s various interpretations of the Mpumi character when they have dress up days at school or when they get their own versions of Mpumi’s beaded braids. It’s also great when I give live readings and children recite the book along with me from memory!
Lebohang Masango is a social anthropologist, writer, and poet. She earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Her first book for adult readers The Soft Life: Love, choice and modern dating (2022) has been longlisted for The Sunday Times Literary Awards 2023.
Check out Masango’s cute Mpumi book series below!