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Niki Daly (1946-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

(Nicholas Daly)


Born 1946, in Cape Town, South Africa; Education: Cape Town Technikon, diploma, 1970.


Agent—Laura Cecil, 17 Alwyne Villas, London N1 2HG, England.


CBS Record Company, London, England, singer and songwriter, 1971–73; junior art director for advertising agencies in Cape Town, South Africa and London, 1973–75; freelance illustrator, 1975–79; East Ham Technical College, London, graphics teacher, 1976–79; Stellenbosch University, head of graphic design, 1983–89; David Philip Publishers, head of Songololo Books, 1989–92; The Inkman Company, facilitator of children's picture books, 1993—author and illustrator. Exhibitions: Artwork from Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky was exhibited at the Original Art Show of the Society of Illustrators, New York, 1995.


Writers and Illustrators Group (founding member).

Niki Daly

Honors Awards

Award for Illustration, British Arts Council/Provincial Booksellers, 1978 for The Little Girl Who Lived down the Road; Horn Book Honor List, 1987, Parents' Choice Foundation Book Award for Literature, 1988, and Katrine Harries Award (South Africa) for illustration, 1988, all for Not So Fast, Songololo; New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Books list, 1995, and Anne Izard Story Teller's Choice Award, 1996, both for Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky; International Board on Books for Young People Honors Award for illustration, 1995, for All the Magic in the World, and 1996, for One Round Moon and a Star for Me; Parents' Choice Award, 1999, for Bravo, Zan Angelo!; Children's Africana Book Award Honor Book for Young Children, 2004, for Once upon a Time.



The Little Girl Who Lived down the Road, Collins (London, England), 1978.

Vim the Rag Mouse, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.

Joseph's Other Red Sock, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.

Leo's Christmas Surprise, Gollancz (London, England), 1983.

Not So Fast, Songololo, Gollancz (London, England), 1985, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1986.

Mama, Papa, and Baby Joe, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

Papa Lucky's Shadow, McElderry (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Ingrid Mennen) Somewhere in Africa, illustrated by Nicolaas Maritz, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.

Mary Malloy and the Baby Who Wouldn't Sleep, Golden (New York, NY), 1993.

Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1994.

My Dad, McElderry (New York, NY), 1995.

Bravo, Zan Angelo!, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Nola Turkington) The Dancer, Human and Rousseau, 1996.

(With Wendy Hartmann) The Dinosaurs Are Back and It's Your Fault Edward!, McElderry (New York, NY), 1997.

The Boy on the Beach, McElderry (New York, NY), 1999.

Pa's Perfect Pizza, Corgi (London, England), 2000.

Old Bob's Brown Bear, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

Once upon a Time, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

Ruby Sings the Blues, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2005.


Ben's Gingerbread Man, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

Teddy's Ear, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

Monsters Are like That, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

Just like Archie, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

Look at Me!, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

Thank You, Henrietta, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.


Jamela's Dress, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1999.

What's Cooking, Jamela?, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.

Where's Jamela?, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.


Kathleen Hersom, Maybe It's a Tiger, Macmillan (London, England), 1981.

Christopher Gregorowski, reteller, Fly, Eagle Fly!, Tafelberg (London, England), 1982, revised edition, McElderry (New York, NY), 2000.

Louis Baum, I Want to See the Moon, Bodley Head (London, England), 1984, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Ruth Craft, The Day of the Rainbow, Heinemann (London, England), 1988, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.

Reviva Schermbrucker, Charlie's House, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

Wendy Hartmann, All the Magic in the World, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.

Ingrid Mennen, One Round Moon and a Star for Me, Orchard (New York, NY), 1994.

Cari Best, Red Light, Green Light, Mama, and Me, Orchard (New York, NY), 1995.

Dinah M. Mbanze, reteller, The Magic Pot: Three African Tales, Kwela Books (Cape Town, South Africa), 1999.

Dinah M. Mbanze, reteller, The Berry Basket: Three African Tales, Kwela Books (Cape Town, South Africa), 1999.

Christopher Gregorowski, reteller, Fly, Eagle, Fly: An African Fable, McElderry (New York, NY), 2000.

Philip Wells, Daddy Island, Barefoot (New York, NY), 2001.

Pat Thomson, The Squeaky, Creaky Bed, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Louise Borden, The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands, McElderry (New York, NY), 2004.


Not So Fast, Songololo, was adapted as a videotape by Weston Woods, 1990.


Niki Daly is a South African author-illustrator whose picture books celebrate the imaginative powers of children and their magnificent everyday lives. Notable about his style are his abilities to view the world from a child's perspective and to see the world in a rainbow of shades, reflective of multicultural modern South Africa. Indeed, many of Daly's solo efforts, as well as his illustrations for other authors, represent strongly African themes. In books such as Not So Fast, Songololo, Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky, The Boy on the Beach, and Jamela's Dress, Daly looks at the day-to-day interactions of the myths that shape black South African reality. As a writer, editor, and provider of art workshops, Daly has furthered the creation of a body of South African children's literature inclusive of all races and ethnic groups.

Daly first became involved in drawing by using pencil stubs handed down from an uncle who painted watercolor pictures. Born in South Africa, Daly traveled to London at the age of twenty-four in order to pursue a career in singing and songwriting. However, economic difficulties ended his music career after two years, and Daly found work as a commercial artist, which eventually led to illustration for children's books. Daly once commented to SATA: "My interest in illustrating for children started after I settled in London. My first book, The Little Girl Who Lived down the Road, was written by myself simply as an excuse to draw the pictures, after realizing that a completed product was more useful to a publisher than trying an unknown illustrator on the work of an established writer. I was very encouraged by the favorable reviews I received concerning the writing of The Little Girl Who Lived down the Road—which spurred me on to further books."

Partly inspired by the work of Maurice Sendak, The Little Girl Who Lived down the Road is the story of a day at the sea that "has the inevitability of the folk tale," according to a reviewer for Junior Bookshelf. This story "is ideal material for the oral story-teller," concluded the reviewer. Carolyn O'Grady wrote in the Times Educational Supplement that Daly creates "endearing creatures which make the most of a child's love of animals." Winner of the British Arts Council illustration award, this debut effort encouraged Daly to believe he could actually make a living writing and illustrating children's books.

Inspired by a collection of ornaments and toys arranged on the windowsill of his London studio, Daly next wrote and illustrated Vim the Rag Mouse about a toy mouse who lives on a similar windowsill and longs for adventures. A Publishers Weekly critic called this book "a welcome fantasy," while a writer for School Library Journal commented that the "story has lots of action and a satisfyingly resolved plot." Joseph's Other Red Sock, another one of Daly's early works, is a read-aloud story for young children. In the story, the hunt for a missing sock turns into imaginative play as it runs from one room to another. The clutter in Joseph's closet finally becomes a monster who has the sock perched on his ear. "Cheerful pastel watercolors highlight the nonchalant pictures, which have a messy, real-kid feel to them," remarked a reviewer in Booklist.

In 1980 Daly and his family returned to South Africa after ten years living abroad. During his first years back in the country of his birth, Daly produced several traditional books for the very young. Leo's Christmas Surprise follows Leo and his family through their Christmas festivities. They blow up balloons, decorate the tree, and ice the cake while Grandpa Bob finishes the surprise gift he is making for Leo in the shed. Growing Point reviewer Margery Fisher lauded the book as a "good idea expressed in a spirited, individual manner." G. Bott noted in Junior Bookshelf that Leo's Christmas Surprise "has all the signs of qualifying as a Christmas favorite." Daly's other books for the very young include the six small books in the "Walker Storytime" series: Ben's Gingerbread Man, Teddy's Ear, Monsters Are like That, Just like Archie, Look at Me!, and Thank You Henrietta. Lucy Ellmann, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, commented that "Daly's Storytime books offer … down-to-earth instruction on child psychology."

When Daly and his family returned to South Africa, the country was experiencing great unrest as a result of apartheid. As the author/illustrator explained to SATA, "I wrote and illustrated a number of books which reflected the lives of the children on the other side of the racial divide. In retrospect, I see these books (Not So Fast, Songololo, Charlie's House, Papa Lucky's Shadow, and All the Magic in the World) as half-way bridges between white and black children who live[d] separate and unequal lives determined by the appalling apartheid system. In order to do these books I ignored the myth propagated through apartheid and some political activists who said that there are differences between people."

The award-winning Not So Fast, Songololo explores South African themes from a South African viewpoint. Young Songololo guides his grandmother on and off the bus as the pair goes to town to buy the boy some new shoes. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book an "evocative depiction of a young black boy in South Africa and his warm relationship with his grandmother." Karla Kuskin noted in the New York Times Book Review that there "is a sweet spirit in this simple, neatly constructed story." Kuskin went on to remark that Daly's "easy watercolors over loose pencil sketching pick up bright patterns and make sensitive studies of individual black faces."

In Papa Lucky's Shadow, Papa Lucky dusts off his dancing shoes and shows why he was a dancing champion in his younger days—much to the delight of his grand-daughter, Sugar. "The peppy bebop quality of Sugar's narrative might inspire some impromptu toe-tapping," noted a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Ilene Cooper commented in Booklist that the "exuberant artwork" adds "spice to a story that might otherwise have been too sweet." Sian Griffiths observed in a review in Times Educational Supplement that "Daly is at the forefront of a wave of South African writers and illustrators … who have made their mark abroad."

In the late 1980s Daly established Songololo Books, a children's book imprint for David Philip Publishers in South Africa. As an editor he attempted to promote children's literature for all South African children, and to this end tried to cultivate not only stories about black South Africans, but by them as well. In addition to publishing his own texts, he illustrated several books by other authors, including Reviva Schermbrucker's Charlie's House and Wendy Hartmann's All the Magic in the World. In the former title, a small boy watches his elders build a makeshift hut of corrugated iron in his shanty town and then attempts to do the same with his own materials. Set in the wheat lands of the Cape, All the Magic in the World tells of the games of a group of farm laborers' children.

After the establishment of a free South Africa, Daly and millions of others voted for the first time as equal South Africans in 1994. He was then at work on Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky, a Nigerian mythic tale, as well as the realistic story My Dad, which harkens back to the difficulties Daly felt as a youth with an alcoholic father. Of the former award-winning title, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Daly's "witty illustrations" invest the tale with "offbeat charm." The reviewer applauded the book's "wonderful balance of high energy and refined aesthetics." Nancy B. Cardozo commented on the wide appeal of the book in the New York Times Book Review, concluding that the youngest children "are likely to be hooked by the lovely pictures; the older ones will respond to the characters and themes; parents may end up having the most fun of all as they watch their children fill the wild and hopeful spaces in this fine book with their own wild hope."

Set in eighteenth-century Venice, Bravo, Zan Angelo! is a departure from South African scenes and themes. A little boy wants to join his rather grumpy grandfather's commedia dell'arte street theater group. Grandfather, a once-famous clown, reluctantly gives in, allowing Angelo to play a small part as a rooster. Mary Simons, writing in the New York Times Book Review, observed that Daly's "illustrations, exquisitely drawn and illuminated with Venetian light, carry the story farther than the words." Booklist critic Michael Cart wrote that "Daly's good-natured story about an unusual subject … is greatly enhanced by his beautiful illustrations."

Daly returned to books with South African motifs in Jamela's Dress and The Boy on the Beach. Fun-loving playful Jamela adores the fabric her mother has bought to make herself a dress for a friend's wedding. Jamela wraps herself in the soft colorful material and parades through town like royalty, luxuriating in the chants of "Kwela Jamela African Queen!" Unfortunately, Jamela does not notice that her royal garb has suffered the indignities of bicycle grease and chicken pecking; the fabric is now stained and torn. Everyone is angry with her until a photographer, who has caught Jamela's royal exploits on film, wins a prize for his photograph and shares the award money with his young subject. Jamela is then able to replace the damaged fabric, including enough to fashion a dress of her own. Joan Zaleski commented in School Library Journal that the "story is filled with the musical language of South Africa. Daly's illustrations are vibrant and colorful and impart a child's eye view of the world." Zaleski called Jamela's Dress a "delightful read-aloud that will be enjoyed by a wide audience," while a Publishers Weekly writer remarked: "Daly splashes luminous watercolors across the pages of this … sympathetic and light-hearted slice of life."

A young boy on a South African beach, reminding Daly of what it was like to be a young child again himself, provided the inspiration for The Boy on the Beach. According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, the book "summons the sights and sounds of a summertime outing through sun-drenched watercolors and keenly tuned language." When the boy on the beach becomes separated from his parents, a lifeguard takes him to Lost and Found where he is reunited with them. "Daly maintains a rigorous visual pace by varying broad vistas of busy seashore activity with close-ups," commented the Publishers Weekly reviewer. Kate McClelland observed in School Library Journal that "Daly's watercolor illustrations are cheerfully energetic in depicting the vibrant colors of the busy beach, the sprightliness of little Joe … and his parents' carefree enjoyment of the day."

Jamela wins more young fans in other books by Daly, including What's Cooking, Jamela? and Where's Jamela? After causing so much trouble in Jamela's Dress, Daly's young protagonist is at it again when her mother asks her to take care of the chicken the family plans to serve for Christmas dinner. Not surprisingly, when Christmas rolls around Jamela balks when the discussion turns to the chicken's unpleasant destiny, and she decides to set the ill-fated fowl free. After the chicken causes chaos in a local hair salon, Jamela is able to convince her mother to let the bird continue to be a pet instead of becoming the main course. According to a Horn Book reviewer, Daly's "lively illustrations … capture Jamela's spirit." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Jamela "a charmer and so is her story," while a critic in School Library Journal considered the book "an enjoyable read." Hazel Rochman praised What's Cooking, Jamela? in her Booklist review, writing that Daly's "words and pictures capture Jamela's dynamic world."

Jamela's mother gets a new job and the family moves to a bigger house in Where's Jamela? As Daly's young readers will relate, Jamela is unhappy about having to leave her home behind, and when she climbs into a large box to avoid the chaos of the move no one is aware of her hiding place. Eventually, she is discovered, and when she looks out her window at the new house and finds it sheltered by the same sky, Jamela feels more confident about the change. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the story "will captivate young readers with its engaging protagonist and warm portrayals of close family." Kathy Krasniewicz commented in School Library Journal Daly includes "South African words that so effectively flavor this treatment of a familiar theme." Horn Book contributor Lauren Adams wrote that "Daly maintains the child's perspective with immediacy of experience and lots of sensory details." Also praising the book, Booklist contributor Jennifer Mattson noted that "Childhood issues rather than political ones drive Daly's storytelling."

While Daly has gained international acclaim, he continues to make his home in South Africa. As he explained to Michael Thorne in an interview for the Illustrators Portfolio Web site, "Originally, we returned to Cape Town with our son Joe when he was a baby because we wanted to surround him with my large, unruly family. However, during the process of staying and seeing the A little girl who loves to be LOUD finds a way to channel her strong voice with the help of a group of jazz musicians in the upbeat picture book Ruby Sings The Blues.changes taking place in the country, I felt that, as a South African, I didn't want to miss the experience of transformation. As a writer I [have] benefited from being close to my South African roots. I also feel that I would not have developed as independently as an artist living in the UK where one is forced to confront competition and the yearly swing of trends and financial dips that take place in publishing overseas. Isolation is not a bad thing provided one is a perfectionist and sets standards beyond one's known abilities."

Daly's themes and motifs continue to surprise. His picture books range from the sublime to the silly, and in between they subtly challenge social prejudices without being didactic. Daly summed up his achievement in an essay for Something about the Author Autobiography Series: "My motivation—a love for drawing pictures and a wish to be famous for something I do well—has remained with me since I was a kid…. What has emerged though, after … years of illustrating and writing children's books, is my position on the ideological battleground. I've discovered that I'm a banner-carrying subversive. Emblazoned on my banner is the message 'STRUT YOUR STUFF!'"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Children's Literature Review, Volume 41, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, edited by Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 21, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Black Issues Book Review, March, 2000, review of Jamela's Dress, p. 60.

Bookbird, 2002, review of Jamela's Dress, p. 38; 2003, review of Yebo, Jamela!, p. 58.

Booklinks, November, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Where's Jamela?, p. 42.

Booklist, July, 1982, review of Joseph's Other Red Sock, p. 1442; September 15, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of Papa Lucky's Shadow, p. 145; February 15, 1994, p. 1093; May 1, 1995, p. 1579; September 1, 1995, p. 82; June 1, 1997, p. 1717; August, 1998, Michael Cart, review of Bravo, Zan Angelo!, p. 2014; March 15, 1999, p. 1333; March 15, 2000, review of Jamela's Dress, p. 1342; November 1, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of What's Cooking, Jamela?, p. 482; November 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Daddy Island, p. 585; Feburary, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Once upon a Time, p. 311; September 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Where's Jamela?, p. 122.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1995, p. 341; January, 2002, review of What's Cooking, Jamela?, p. 168.

Growing Point, November, 1983, Margery Fisher, review of Leo's Christmas Surprise, p. 4168.

Horn Book, March-April, 1992, p. 193; November-December, 1993, p. 732; September, 2001, review of What's Cooking, Jamela, p. 572; September-October, 2004, Lauren Adams, p. 565; November-December, 2004, "Children's Africana Book Award," p. 741; May-June, 2005, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Ruby Sings the Blues, p. 306.

Junior Bookshelf, June, 1978, review of The Little Girl Who Lived down the Road, p. 134; December, 1983, G. Bott, review of Leo's Christmas Surprise, p. 234.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1986, review of Not So Fast, Songololo, pp. 468-469; September 15, 2001, review of What's Cooking, Jamela?, p. 1356; July 15, 2004, review of Where's Jamela?, p. 682.

Library Media Connection, August-September, 2003, review of Once upon a Time, p. 70.

New York Times Book Review, June 1, 1986, Karla Kuskin, review of Not So Fast, Songololo, p. 48; July 17, 1994, p. 18; June 18, 1995, p. 25; November 5, 1995, Nancy B. Cardozo, review of Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky, p. 31; December 6, 1998, Mary Simons, review of Bravo, Zan Angelo!, p. 78.

Publishers Weekly, July 29, 1979, review of Vim the Rag Mouse, p. 105; June 29, 1992, review of Papa Lucky's Shadow, pp. 62-63; April 3, 1995, p. 62; May 15, 1995, review of Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky, p. 72; April 14, 1997, p. 74; May 10, 1999, reviews of The Boy on the Beach and Jamela's Dress, pp. 66-67.

School Librarian, February, 1992, Nansi Taylor, review of Charlie's House, pp. 17-18; summer, 2000, review of Pa's Perfect Pizza, p. 79; winter, 2001, review of What's Cooking, Jamela?, p. 186; spring, 2002, review of Old Bob's Brown Bear, p. 17, and review of Not So Fast, Songolo, p. 73; autumn, 2003, review of Once upon a Time, p. 129; winter, 2004, p. 186.

School Library Journal, December, 1979, review of Vim the Rag Mouse, pp. 72, 74; December, 1993, p. 88; September, 1994, p. 190; June, 1995, p. 79; June, 1997, p. 90; September, 1998, p. 165; June, 1999, Kate McClelland, review of The Boy on the Beach, p. 42; August, 1999, Joan Zaleski, review of Jamela's Dress, p. 132; October, 2001, review of What's Cooking, Jamela?, p. 64; September, 2004, Kathy Krasniewicz, review of Where's Jamela?, p. 157; April, 2005, review of Where's Jamela? p. S30.

Teacher Librarian, February, 2003, review of Old Bob's Brown Bear, p. 42.

Times Educational Supplement, June 23, 1978, Carolyn O'Grady, "Paradise Lost and Found," p. 21; July 2, 1993, Sian Griffiths, "Mum and Dad and Gran," p. 10.

Times Literary Supplement, October 25, 1985, Lucy Ellmann, "Childhood's Image," p. 1218.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), September 22, 2002, review of Old Bob's Brown Bear, p. 4; June 8, 2003, review of Once upon a Time, p. 5.


Illustrators Portfolio Web site, http://www.illustrators.co.za/ (September 17, 2005), interview with Daly.

Additional topics

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