A little girl called Nyla sets out on an action packed ocean adventure with her parents, where they encounter sharks, learn valuable life lessons and have lots of fun.
That, in a nutshell, is the premise of a recently published children’s book called The Oceanic Oxy Rescue Mission. What makes it extra special is that it’s the brainchild of a creative kid from Pretoria who’s just eight years old.
The characters and story were created by Bontle Ndhlovu, the only child of Refilwe (34), a communications consultant, and Capes (40), who owns a construction and manufacturing business.
“I was trying to make my family more famous,” sassy Bontle says. She drew inspiration for her book from her favourite show, The Octonauts, a children’s animated series about animals that explore the ocean and encounter sea creatures.
“I like the show because it’s fun and cool and it teaches you about different sea animals,” she says.
Her love for words and stories started when her mother would read to her as a baby. “Books are fascinating,” Bontle says. “I like reading about different cultures and stories.”
Whenever she and her mother head to the mall, they never miss an opportunity to pop into the bookstore.
“She always runs to the kiddies’ section and buries herself there,” Refilwe says.
Bontle considers Matilda by Roald Dahl one of her favourite books.
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During one of their bookstore visits, Bontle asked her mother if books were mostly written by adults or children. When her mother said adults, she responded by saying more books should be written by children.
“She asked me if she could write a book so it too could be sold at a bookstore,” Refilwe says.
Soon after that Bontle had an idea for her book. Because she can’t type that well yet, she asked her mom to type the story for her using her cellphone.
It took Bontle a month to put the story together and she came up with the entire storyline and characters herself. Refilwe helped only when it came to the title of the book.
Refilwe thought she’d have one copy printed as a birthday gift and asked colleague Maxine Naidoo to create illustrations for the book.
Bontle was beside herself with excitement when she got to hold a copy of her book for the first time.
“I couldn’t believe it!” she says. She was also happy with the illustrations. “I’m not picky. I love everything.”
Then Refilwe knew she had to get the book published. She researched self-publishing and eventually had more books printed. For extra fun, Bontle included a word search and word scramble to the book, which costs R90 and can be bought from her mom’s website.
Since publishing the book, other parents want their children to have playdates with Bontle, Refilwe says. Clothing brand H&M has also selected Bontle as a role model.
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“For me, it’s about teaching my child and other kids alike that anything is possible,” Refilwe says.
Bontle loves the feedback she’s getting. “It feels amazing. I feel like a queen.”
She’s now working on a book series about having fun as you grow up, titled Adventures with Bontle.
When she’s not buried in a book or writing, she spends her days swimming and playing with dolls and friends. Her biggest dream is for her book characters to have their own show.
“I want my characters to appear on YouTube and Netflix.”
And with her go-getter attitude, anything is possible.