Bookchat is over … and will be sadly missed

It is hard to give up something you have loved, but Jay Heale, our loyal book editor at CBN, has finally hung up his book review hat and decided to cease publication of Bookchat, his much-loved review of children’s books that has appeared in many guises for so many years.

Since 1976, in fact – a date that today’s generation of young readers view as medieval, but which was the beginning of an era for everyone involved with writing, illustrating, editing and publishing (not to mention buying and selling), but most of all reading children’s books in South Africa.

I can’t tell you how much I have learned from Jay, over the years. About fiction, and non-fiction, about the subtle art of illustration; about the value of books from other times and places. Most of all about the pursuit of excellence in writing for young people. It is incalculable.

This knowledge, skill and clear-sighted assessment of new books (as well as occasionally much-loved old books) was shared through a monthly publication that grew from a manually typed and photocopied version (R2.00 annual subscription) to a whizzier electronic version with full colour images (Still well worth it at R50 a year). It contained much wisdom as well as informed, humorous and sometimes pithy reviews. It kept us book people informed and in the know. It educated us. It helped.

It was always a not-for-profit venture, sometimes heavily subsidized by Jay himself, always welcome, whether it came through the letterbox or the inbox. And what are we going to do without it? I don’t know. All the wonders of the Internet cannot replace the dedication, the hard work – and above all the love of children and books and reading that was Jay Heale’s Bookchat. We salute him, and we thank him.

May your retirement be sweet, and long.

Image: Children being enthralled by Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. A picture of Jay is on this website at:


… but this one seemed appropriate to illustrate the ideas Jay has worked so tirelessly on for most of his long career in books.

Lesley Beake
1 November 2028
The Day of the Last Bookchat.

A quote from Jay:
‘You can’t be a writer unless you have first become a reader. But although not everyone reads to be a writer – everyone does need to be a thinker. That’s why books are so important.’

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