As far as emerging child authors are concerned, I wish to wax lyrical about Stacey Fru, as an imminent South African literati. Predictably, many may pose the transient question – Stacey who? Stacey Fru is a 13-year-old teen sensation – South Africa’s multiple international award-winning child author, activist, philanthropist, edutainer in an online ‘Children’s Television South Africa (CTVSA)’, public speaker and brand ambassador.
She was born on 16th February 2007, the second child of four siblings to Dr. Emmanuel Fru, a political scientist and Victorine Mbong Shu, a Master’s degree graduate in communication science. She is a Grade 8 pupil, at my alma mater Sacred Heart College. Her universal acclaim as a wordsmith has earned her the title of child-prodigy.
Doubting Thomases of her eminence as an iconic author need only read her five children’s books – Smelly Cats (2015), Bob and the Snake (2016), Smelly Cats on Vacation (2018), Tim’s Answer (2019) and Where is Tammy (2019). Themes in her books are diverse and vary from culture, illiteracy, religion, respect, love, health, difference, abuse, role models, trafficking, family, friendship, safety and security.
Astonishingly at just 13 years old, Stacey Fru has incredibly become South Africa’s, Africa’s and perhaps even the world’s, youngest international multiple award-winning author, in the genre of children’s books. Incredibly the first three of Stacey Fru’s books, were authored prior to her 11th birthday.
Fru wrote her initial book Smelly Cats, aged 7 in 2014, without her parent’s knowledge. Details of how her parents battled to publish her first book are eloquently narrated in her TEDx TALK, of December 2019 (Video was out in February 14 2020 ‘Stacey Fru: living Your Dream’.
The adversities the family experienced in their effort to publish Stacey Fru’s books inspired her mother to start ‘Profounder Publishing’. This masterstroke resulted in all five of Fru’s books being published without the stress of having to approach mainstream publishers.
With Smelly Cats, Fru became the youngest winner of the National Development Agency’s (NDA) ‘Best ECD Publication 2016: Special Mention Category’as ‘Best ECD Publication 2015: Special Mention Category’, a prize donated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Smelly Cats has also been approved by South Africa’s Department of Basic Education as a recommended text book for pupils, from the early childhood phase up to primary school level.
Her second book launch, at Wits University in 2015, led to the award of ‘Youngest founding member’ of the Wits University Centre for Multilingual Education and literacy’ in 2016. This may explain why Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib and Wits Head of School of literature and Media (SLLM) Professor Dan Ojwang, are featured in the forewords of her second and third books, respectively.
In Bob and the Snake (2016) the key message centres on friendship. In the third book Smelly Cats on Vacation (2018), a sequel to the first book Smelly Cats, she focuses on study habits, the importance of rest and respect.
Fru’s fourth and fifth books –Tim’s Answer and Where is Tammy? – were concurrently published in July 2019. The former book, deals with the theme of role models and the latter, switches its focus to safety and security. The young author has already stated that her next book will be a novel (I speculate she refers to a novelette). And she’s not stopping there. She has already set a personal target of having written 12 books by the time she is in Grade 10 – a major feat for anyone let alone a teenager.
This buddying author stands on the shoulders of many of South Africa’s doyens of literature, among them, Nontsizi Mgqwetho, Noni Jabavu, Bessie Head, Miriam Tlali, Ellen Kuzwayo, Gcina Mhlophe, Sindiwe Magona and many others. Mhlophe and Magona, who are still alive, will undoubtedly be watching our young prodigy with pride as a sign of an imminent literary lodestar.
Dr. Tshepo Mvulane Moloi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study (JIAS)