BOOKS

REVIEW | The Day The Dragon Came by Fanie Viljoen

Gillian McAinsh reviews a new book which tackles an extremely difficult subject: child abuse

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Gillian McAinsh reviews The Day the Dragon Came by Fanie Viljoen
The Day the Dragon Came by Fanie Viljoen is a new book aimed at South African families which tackles an extremely difficult subject: child abuse.
Although a glance at the cover does not give any hints as to the subject matter, it does not take long for the reader to pick up that there is a dark undercurrent in the home, with the dragon in the title a frightening mystery to the child whose sister is threatened by it.
The story is simple yet hard-hitting and the author has carefully created two parallel books: one aimed at boys and another at girls.
As sexual predators can attack either gender it is a thoughtful touch to give the two genders their own version of the book.
It’s also tremendously relevant and much needed as the publishers note that recent studies suggest a third of all South African school children experience sexual abuse.However, how do you pick it up? Then, if you do suspect your child is being molested, what do you do?Both the boy and girl versions of The Day the Dragon Came gives guidelines to exactly this.In one, Kevin loves stories about the brave Knight of Arabia who even fights dragons. But his older sister, Abby, does not believe in fairy tales anymore. Abby says there is a dragon in their own home – but who could it be?In the other, Kyra is the main character, who loves stories about fierce princess Arabia.Both are aimed at children, aged between six and nine, but their real value will come when a caring older reader steps in to place the content in context.Certainly, the way the story is told will provide talking points to start a conversation.More than that, however, it also gives tools to help children protect themselves. It gives suggestions for how children can alert suitable adults if they fall prey to a molester using the “safe hand” system (which is spelt out in the book).It also gives warning signs for parents and advice on what they can do if a child is being abused.The invaluable role of the teacher is highlighted because they have a legal duty to report sexual abuse and face sanctions if they ignore a child who comes to them, even if the suspected abuser is a colleague.Children need to be know what to do when they feel afraid, and they also need the reassurance that they are not to blame if something bad happens to them.There are early warning signs that children can look out for in a “dragon”, but they can only do so if the adults in their lives are doing their job, which is to care for and protect them.While The Day the Dragon Came is not a book that you would want to buy, as any parent hopes their children always would be safe, it would be constructive for those who work with young children to be aware of this resource.Tumi K Steyn’s light pencil illustrations add to the storyline, giving faces to the sad sister, grandpa, “uncle” and mother and there even a place for Ticky the dog.As for readers concerned about exposing small children to sexual content, rest assured that Viljoen also has a light touch and the content is age appropriate.I would recommend each primary school get hold of a copy of The Day the Dragon Came and perhaps go so far as to set up a discussion at a parent-teacher night to let families know about how to address this issue if it ever invades their home, and to be aware of the pointers it gives to keep our children safe.Therapists who work with children might also find it helpful.Thank you, Fanie, for writing this book!
The Day the Dragon Came: A Book for Boys/Girls by Fanie Viljoen and illustrated by Tumi K Steyn is published Human & Rousseau at a recommended retail price of R110. It is also available in Afrikaans.

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