“If you can dream, you can do it.” This quote, attributed to Walt Disney, has inspired many people to pursue their passion, no matter how daunting or impossible it seemed.
For Bontle Ndhlovu, following her dreams paid off – with the support of her family, the 8-year-old published her first book in 2021. Titled THE OCEANIC OXY RESCUE MISSION, the book tells the story of a family’s ocean adventure.
According to the young author, she was inspired to write her own story after watching a television show. “I saw an episode of Octonauts in which sea animals were rescued and loved it so much. It inspired me.” At only seven years old, Bontle was unable to write the story herself, so she asked her mom to type it for her.
Once typed, Bontle’s mom, Refilwe, sent it to her illustrator colleague, Maxine Naidoo to work her magic. Through her illustrations of The Oceanic Oxy Rescue Mission, Maxine brought to life, a perfect depiction of Bontle’s imagination.
“When I first saw the illustrations, I was so excited because it was exactly as I had imagined it!” I am glad we worked with Maxine, she had creative freedom but understood that the characters had to look like my family,” explains Bontle.
THE OCEANIC OXY RESCUE MISSION tells the story of Nyla and her family who are attacked by three sharks while enjoying a relaxing boat ride. The family is then rescued by Oxy and the Dolphins. “It’s a fun book about adventure,” says Bontle, who enjoys reading adventure stories herself. “I think children should read it because it’s cool and full of imagination. There are also some fun educational activities at the end of the book.”
Bontle has loved stories from a young age. “My mom started reading me books when I was little, and I think that’s where my love for stories comes from. I’ve always loved telling stories.”
Refilwe explains that when visiting bookstores, Bontle would often ask if her books could one day be on the shelves. “I used to tell her that anything is possible and that if she wrote her own stories, it could get published and sold in stores. I think that inspired her.”
She adds: “When Bontle came to me with her story, I wanted to help her realise her dream, so I typed it for her and reached out to Maxine, and we got to work. We received the printed copies a few days before Bontle’s eighth birthday. It was a long process, but the joy on her face when she saw her first book made everything worthwhile.” For Bontle, it was an inspiring experience. “Writing and publishing my book taught me that anything is possible.”
In addition to loving stories and languages (English and Sepedi), she is an avid reader, swimmer, singer, and dancer. She is also a toy enthusiast, enjoys playing with her friends and loves animals.
While publishing her first book was a dream come true, Bontle was also selected as a local role model by H&M in their global Role Models Campaign, an initiative aimed at empowering young voices, in 2021.
As for what she plans to do after school, she is keeping her options open. “I want to be a firefighter or surgeon because I want to save lives. Or the first scientist to create something magical. I also want to be a teacher because I want to help children,” she says. Luckily, as she is only in Grade 3, there is no pressure to decide just yet. She is, however, already working on more stories in the Adventures with Bontle-series.
The young storyteller with the big dreams has a special message for children and adults alike: “Kids with big dreams should not be scared to chase them. If you work hard, you can do whatever you want. Adults must also follow their dreams and must never give up.”
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