The rags to riches story of a young footballer who goes to the city and gets signed for a top football club but… there’s a shadow hanging over him.


Themba: a boy called hope

by Lutz van Dijk
Translated by Karin Chubb

  • Karin Chubb was Shortlisted for the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation, a unique award celebrating the high quality and diversity of translated fiction for young readers, in 2013.
  • Made into an award-winning film.


A hard-hitting, and emotional story of AIDs in South Africa, following Themba and his dreams of becoming a famous footballer.

Themba grows up dreaming of becoming a football star. One day he leaves the village and travels with his sister to the city in search of their mother. Life is a struggle and Themba has to grow up fast. A lucky break gives him the chance to train as a footballer and play professionally – but Themba has a secret – should he tell the truth and risk everything he’s ever dreamed of?


“Beautifully translated from the original … it is a book full of hope and the more young people who read books like this and who come to understand how other young children live, the more this hope will spread.” Books, Teens and Magazines

“Themba reminds me of my own childhood and youth in a township close to a small village in the Transvaal in South Africa: Like him I wanted to escape poverty, like him I had the hope that our world will be a just world one day – and like him I loved my mother who was working at the time as a maid for a white family. To be very honest: in soccer Themba seems to be simply better than I was.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“READ OF THE MONTH” Pride magazine

“…an inspirational coming of age drama about a young South African boy’s escape from poverty and the pusuit of a dream.” Spling onliner

“It’s a rags to riches story – a story of hope, of dreaming your dreams and achieving them, and it’s also a story of friendship…” The Sunday Independent

“It’s a really engaging book, and because Aids is a serious issue, it made us want to carry on reading more about it.” Durning Library teenage reading group

“Beautifully translated from the original and it is an easy and straightforward read. However, the storyline is tough – poverty, AIDS and death haunt the pages of the book. The reader learns about the hardship of life for many ordinary South Africans (even after Mandela came to power) and the struggle for those families who have a family member suffering from AIDS. The problems they face do not lie solely in a lack of medication and good nutrition; it also lies in the ignorance of their neighbours and friends and a refusal of many to acknowledge the illness and help the ill. However this is not a depressing book – it is a book full of hope and the more young people who read books like this and who come to understand how other young children live, the more this hope will spread.” Books, Teens and Magazines

About the author

Dr Lutz van Dijk is a German-Dutch writer, born in Berlin. He began as a teacher in Hamburg (Germany), later he joined the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (Netherlands). Since 2001 he is at home in Cape Town (South Africa), where he became a founding member of HOKISA, a South African NGO ( which cares for children living with HIV/AIDS. Most of his books are written originally in German and translated into several other languages. Lutz van Dijk has received several literary awards, among them the Namibian Youth Literature Award (1997), the German Gustav-Heinemann-Peace-Award (2001) and an honorable Professorship of Poetry by the German University of Oldenburg (2009). His youth novel Stronger than the Storm became a South African bestseller and is used in many schools still today. His novel Themba has been made into an international movie (2010), since then also screened several times on South African TV channels and has received several international awards in Canada, France, USA, South Africa and Germany. In South Africa, Lutz van Dijk supports young literary talents.













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