Hanna’s dad was a fisherman. He dashed out of the house to go to sea. He waved goodbye as he left. Hanna knew he would be away for days and days, but when he came home, he would bring back fresh fish to fry.
Then Hanna’s mom whooshed away like the wind. She had to work every day of the week for a whole month.
“I’m late,” she shouted. “Tannie Taliep from next door is coming over. Stay inside until she comes. See you later. Love you lots.” She blew kisses as she ran for the bus.
Hanna stared through the window at the blue, blue sky. She felt all alone. She picked up a piece of paper and a pencil and made a drawing of a face with tears running down the cheeks. Then she heard Tannie Taliep unlock the front door.
“Morning, Hanna,” said Tannie Taliep. “What’s this?” She took the piece of paper and looked at it. “Mmm,” she said, “no time for nonsense. Go to Allie’s next door and buy bread and milk. I need my tea.”
As she closed the front door, Hanna saw her drawing crumpled in a little ball on the kitchen floor. At Allie’s, she waited until Mr Ismail saw her.
“Hello, Hanna,” he said smiling. “Bread and milk as usual? Still not tall enough to reach the shelf?” She shook her head. “Never mind, you’ll grow soon.”
He laughed kindly and she smiled back at him. Then she looked down. On the floor, next to her feet was a piece of paper – one page with a few words and a lot of pictures on it. She picked it up. Mr Ismail saw it.
“You’ll be surprised what the wind blows in here,” he said. “You can have it if you want.” He handed her the bread and milk. “Here you go – here’s your shopping.”
“Hurry-hurry,” shouted Tannie Taliep as Hanna opened the door, “my soapie has already started on TV.” She took the shopping bag from Hanna and made tea in a hurry.
Hanna sat down at the kitchen table. She smoothed out the piece of paper she had picked up and read one word – Jamela. There were lots of pictures of Jamela. Jamela blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Jamela hiding in a cardboard box. Jamela wrapped in a lovely cloth and Jamela holding a little red hen.
Hanna sighed. She wished it was Monday. She wanted to see if there was someone at school named Jamela. She wanted to find a friend just like Jamela.
On Monday, she ran to Miss Witbooi’s class. “Please, Miss, do you know Jamela?”
“There’s no Jamela here. Go back to your class,” said Miss Witbooi.
On Tuesday, Hanna went to Mrs Booysen’s class. “Please, Mrs …”, but she didn’t get any further.
“Hanna Pieterse! What are you doing here? Lessons have started,” shouted Mrs Booysen.
On Wednesday, she asked Mr Hendricks. But no one knew Jamela.
Hanna looked at the pictures on the piece of paper so many times that the page fell to pieces and Jamela was gone.
Then one day, the whole class went on an outing to the library. There, behind the counter, was a woman with a kind face. Hanna went up to her.
“Ye-es,” said the woman. “Have you chosen a book?”
Hanna shook her head, then asked, “Do you know Jamela?”
The woman leaned forward. “Are you with the class that is here on an outing?” she asked. Hanna nodded and hoped the woman would not be angry. The woman frowned. She walked to the other side of the counter and took Hanna by the hand. “Come with me,” she said and smiled. “I do know a little girl named Jamela. I also know a little boy named Ashraf. I even know a mouse named Wolfgang.”
For one whole wonderful, exciting hour, Hanna met so-oo many friends. She opened books and went to different places all over the world. On the pages, she saw the most amazing things. In the pictures, she saw all the wonderful things that Jamela did.
When Hanna’s mom stopped working on weekends and her father was home from the sea, they sat together and read books. Together they went shopping with Jamela and dancing with Papa Lucky. They even went for a walk with a giraffe.
And Hanna forgot all about drawing sad faces and feeling alone because now she never was.
Jamela and Papa Lucky from Hanna’s friends are characters from picture books by South African children’s author, Niki Daly. Which story characters are your children’s favourites? Encourage them to draw pictures of one or more of their favourite story characters and then to make up a new story featuring these characters.