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Pictures drawn from childhood

22 February 2013

In a new book for children, Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells a semi-autobiographical story about growing up in South Africa. Malcolm Doney reports

©20013 A. G. FORD

Trouble: Desmond talks with Fr Trevor

Trouble: Desmond talks with Fr Trevor

THE Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, has written a children's picture-book, published this month, which is based on his own childhood, and in which he talks about the import- ant relationship he had with Fr Trevor Huddleston. Co-written with Douglas Carlton Abrams, and illustrated by A. G. Ford, it tells the story of Desmond, a young boy growing up in a poor part of Johannesburg.

In Desmond and the Very Mean Word, Desmond is out riding his new bike when an aggressive group of white children call him names - one name in particular. Enraged, Desmond is bent on revenge, but, with the help of kindly advice from his parish priest, Fr Trevor, he manages to find compassion and forgive his tormentors.

"The story was inspired by something that actually happened to me when I was growing up in South Africa," Dr Tutu says. "Fr Trevor is based on Fr Trevor Huddleston, who was my childhood hero. . . Fr Trevor mentored me, and countless other young people. When I was sick in hospital for 20 months, he came to visit me - one poor boy in his whole parish - every single week.

"At another time, he asked Louis Armstrong for a trumpet, which he gave to a young boy named Hugh. Hugh Masekela became one of South Africa's greatest trumpeters.

"Fr Trevor, who eventually became Archbishop Huddleston, was one of the most important members of the anti-apartheid movement. . . . He truly did care about everyone, and, in so many ways, taught us the secrets of love and forgiveness. In his honour, my wife, Leah, and I named our first son Trevor."

Desmond and the Very Mean Word, by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, illustrated by A. G. Ford, is published by Walker Books at £11.99 (Church Times Bookshop £10.80); 978-1-4063-4391-5.

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