The Curious Cousins and the African Elephant Expedition

Dive into an enchanting world with The Curious Cousins and the African Elephant Expedition – where every page turn reveals a new marvel, and where young readers embark on an adventure that spans ages, dreams, and the vast landscapes of South Africa…

This Book is Perfect For:

  • Parents seeking bedtime stories for all ages.
  • Educators searching for level 2 reading books for children or highly engaging picture books.
  • Fans of kids adventure books and children’s magical adventure narratives.
  • Young readers who adore animal books and wish to embark on an adventure for children..

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ACTIVITY BOOK: African Elephants, Animals, Insects and Birds 

Action-packed and activity-filled journey, this Activity Book is for ages 4 to 11 years. It includes Colouring-In, Dot-to-Dot, and Word-Search, and is ideal for any child with an interest in the animals of Africa. Suitably entertaining and challenging, from confidence-boosting easy starters to tricky fun exercises. Imagination, concentration, problem-solving, and hours of ‘screen-free’ educational fun.

BONUS: every page can be coloured! Finish the activities and colour the picture to make the book as unique and special as you are.

Inspired by The Curious Cousins and the African Elephant Expedition. A children’s picture story that follows three cousins, Emilia Rose, Isla Mae, and Audrey Jane, who use their dream lives to visit Africa, a magical land infused with wonder, knowledge and unexpected friendships.


Download 3 pages from the Activity Book for FREE!

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African Heroes - Parent notes & backend

African Elephants

Elephants are very calm and live a life that is contented. They are never in a hurry and because they are so smart, they don’t forget anything.

There are two types of African elephants – savannah elephants and forest elephants. Savannah elephants are bigger and live in the grasslands, and they are the heroes of our story. Forest elephants are smaller and live in the forests of central Africa. Elephants live in thirty-seven African countries.

Elephants are herbivores, which means that they only eat grass, leaves, shrubs, roots, and fruit. They are constantly eating and can eat up to three hundred pounds of food, or one hundred and thirty-six kilos, each day. They spend up to three-quarters of their day looking for food.

Elephants live up to seventy years and gather in matriarchal herds. The leader of the pack is usually the oldest and biggest female. When they are born, elephant babies are very big, weighing two hundred and sixty pounds or one hundred and eighteen kilograms. They gestate for six hundred and sixty days and that’s almost two years! Elephants are very confident mothers and get lots of help from the aunts in the herd with raising the babies.

Elephant trunks are very useful. They use it as a nose, an arm to forage and reach for food, to drink water, to spray mud and dust to help with sunburn, and as a snorkel for swimming. Although elephants love to swim and have fun in the water, babies only learn to swim when they are a bit older.

Elephants help clear vegetation for other animals, making it easier for them to access food and water. Elephants sleep standing up, leaning against a tree. They have rumbling echoing noises that come from their tummies and are a sophisticated way of communicating with each other.

Elephants are endangered and protected.

African Aloe

There are over three hundred and sixty types of Aloes in Africa. The aloe is a healing plant and the juice from the leaves is used in skincare products. It has beautiful tall red, orange and yellow flowers.

Fire Ants

A typical anthill contains an egg-laying queen and adult ants which look after the eggs. Up to two hundred and fifty thousand ants live together in an anthill and nest, and queen ants can lay up to one thousand five hundred eggs each day.

The tall anthill above ground is actually just the top of a huge underground nest, just like the tip of the iceberg.

Ants are very busy and only rest for around eight minutes in a twelve-hour period.

Daddy long-legs Spider

A daddy long-legs spider has a small greyish-looking body and long thin legs.

Daddy long-legs spiders eat insects, other spiders, mites, snails and rotting vegetables. They don’t bite people and are as gentle as ladybugs. The species is four hundred million years old.

They build very imprecise and scruffy-looking webs anywhere that’s convenient, including over abandoned holes and burrows in the ground. They have a bouncing walk that helps propel them forward and they gyrate and bounce their web to scare off predators.


The scientific name for dragonfly is Odonata, and it means ‘toothed one’. Dragonflies have very strong jaws, and they eat any insects that they can catch and especially love mosquitos. There are one hundred and fifty-nine species of dragonflies in South Africa. Some adult dragonflies live for only a few weeks, and some live up to a year.

Dragonflies are expert flyers. They can fly straight up and straight down and can even hover. Almost their entire head is made up of eyes. They have incredible vision and can see in all directions, except directly behind them.

Dragonflies are thought to be magical and symbolize change and rebirth, understanding the deeper meaning of life, making wishes, and good luck.

Dung Beetle

Dung beetles live in grasslands, deserts, forests, or farmlands. They just don’t like the cold!

A male dung beetle can pull a dung ball that is so big – it would be the same as a person pulling six double-decker buses full of people! Dung beetles bury rolls of dung below ground, and this helps aerate and re-seed the soil in the grasslands.

Dung beetles only eat animal dung – they have a great sense of smell and use this to discover the best. Dung beetles don’t eat anything else, and they don’t drink anything at all. Some smaller dung beetles actually attach to larger animals waiting for the dung to fall.

Female dung beetles lay their eggs in fresh dung balls. Dung beetles aren’t very community-minded as they like to steal dung balls from each other.

The Fever tree

Fever trees are very tall and love hot, humid conditions with access to plenty of water. The green bark is smooth, flaking and covered in a yellow sulphur powder. This gives the tree its lime-green look.

Fever trees provide food for many animals. The giraffes, elephants and monkeys eat the young branches, leaves and seed pods. The birds, bees and butterflies love the flowers. The green bark and roots are used to treat the disease malaria.

The roots of the Fever tree add nitrogen to the soil, fertilizing it and making it very favourable for other plants growing nearby. Other plants and bushes love growing beneath a Fever tree. The leaves of the Fever tree are made up of very fine leaflets and close at night.

They have long, straight, white thorns that are arranged in pairs and protect the birds who nest in their branches from predators, such as snakes.

Puff Adder

Puff Adders are the most common poisonous snake in Africa, and they can live up to 20 years. They are short, fat and lazy with chevron markings on their back and a recognizable triangular head. Puff adders are too lazy to hunt, but rather ambush small reptiles, birds and rodents that cross their path. They do help maintain balance in the ecosystem because, without puff adders, Africa would be overrun with rats and mice. They also help control the mosquito population.

Puff adders move in a straight line, like a caterpillar, rather than slithering from side to side like most other snakes. They are out and about during the day or the night and when threatened they inflate their upper body and hiss. They puff up and that’s how they got their name.

Most reptiles lay eggs, but puff adders’ eggs hatch inside the female, and they give birth to between twenty and eighty live baby snakes at a time.

Secretary Bird

The Secretary bird has the body of an eagle but the legs of a crane, and this makes them very big and very tall. It has red and orange markings on its bare face, a crest of feathers on the back of its head, and grey feathers on its body, with two long black-tipped tail feathers.

The Secretary bird uses its long legs to stomp on its prey and its wings to distract it. Although it is famous for eating snakes, the Secretary bird also likes hunting insects and small animals. Snakes try to bite the flapping wings but have no impact because they are only biting feathers.

Secretary birds hunt in pairs and mate for life. The two birds defend their territory of up to fifty kilometres. They move around on foot most of their life but lay their eggs in big nests at the top of tall trees like the Fever tree. They lay two to three blue/green eggs that take forty-five days to hatch.

They live for ten to fifteen years and are on the endangered list.


The Zulu people in South Africa call the millipede, shongololo. It is derived from the Zulu word ‘ukushonga’ which means to roll up. Shongololo’s roll up in a tight ball when they are threatened, to protect their soft underparts. They also release a bad smell when they are frightened.

Millipedes were the first animals to live on land. They were the first animals to breathe air and a fossil found in Scotland dates back four hundred and fifty million years. Millipedes are terrific recyclers; they eat dead plants and animals and recycle the nutrients back into the soil.

Weaver Birds

Weaver birds are hard-working and intelligent and very noisy. The males are bright yellow and the females are yellowish-grey in colour. They hunt together as a flock and eat seeds, insects, and plants. They are very social birds and live together in large colonies.

The males build the nests, hanging from the end of branches, and the females do the quality control. Male weavers are the only birds in the world who can tie a knot with their beaks.

Their nests have roofs with complex woven chambers for the eggs, and a bottom tube-like entrance which deters predators. Nests are made of strips of grass, reeds, leaves, twigs and roots.

They live up to 15 years and sing beautifully; usually in a duet in which they sync their songs.

zulu heart

Zulu Glossary

Amanzi [ah-mun-zee]

is the Zulu word for water.

Gogo [gaw-gaw]

is the Zulu name for grandma or grandmother.

Hamba gahle [hum–baa–gaash–lee]

is the Zulu phrase that means go well.
Walk slowly but go quickly.

Indlovu [inn-d-low-voo]

is the Zulu word for elephant.
It is a name sometimes given to a person who is very important and deeply respected, like a king or a chief.

Jigamanzi [jig-aah-maan-zee]

is the Zulu word for dragonfly and it means water dancer.

Manyeleti [maan-yeh-let-ee]

is a Zulu word that means I’m sorry.

Sawubona [sow-ooo-born–ah

is a Zulu word that is a greeting used instead of hello, good day, good morning, good afternoon, good evening.
Sawubona actually means I see you.

Thula [too-laah]

is a Zulu word that means to be quiet, to be peaceful, to be still.

Thula is part of a famous lullaby song sung by Zulu mothers to their babies.

Thula thula thula baba,
Thula thula thula sana.
Hush, hush-a-bye baby
Hush, hush-a-bye baby

Ubuntu [ooooh-boon-too]

is a Zulu word that means I am who I am only because of who we are together.

Ubuntu shows that we don’t exist on our own and that we are never alone because we are part of a bigger connected world of all living things. In life, ‘us’ is more meaningful than ‘me’ .

Umama [ooh-maamaa]

is the Zulu word for my mother.

Woza [waw-zah]

is a Zulu word that means come on, come with me.

Yabonga [yaaaa-bong-aah]

is a Zulu word that means thank you and be thankful.

Yehbo [yeah-boh]

is a Zulu word that means yes.

Audrey Jane’s Favorite Words

Cacophony – a meaningless mixture of sounds

Ambulatory – moving about from place to place

Brouhaha – excitement, hullabaloo

Perturbed – feeling upset and unsettled

Ginormous – extremely large, huge

Gyrating – to whirl around in a spiral or circle

Snorkel – tube extended above the surface of the water

Nocturnal – occurring at night, active at night

The Story Behind the Story

Back in 1990 my husband John and I made the gut-wrenching decision to leave our family and home in South Africa and emigrate to Canada. Our boys, Joel and Adam were six and four years old at the time. We followed the life truth that we couldn’t look back and threw ourselves into Canadian life with vigour.

Being an immigrant is a unique experience, with its own challenges and heartaches, as well as its daily victories. Through all the years of loneliness and being away from family, we kept our eye on the prize, which was giving our sons a safe, nurturing environment to grow up in.

Canada has been a welcoming and gracious new home for us. I am so deeply grateful for this country that accepted us and continues to nurture my fiercely patriotic Canadian sons and lucky granddaughters. We can testify that it is true – Canada is definitely one of the greatest countries in the world to live. In 2023 I will have spent as many years in my new home, as I did in my birth country; I am a true hybrid.

The idea for this story was born on a recent trip back to South Africa – there’s a lot of time to let your imagination fly when you are taking a 41-hour door-to-door trip! It had been eight years since I’d visited South Africa and this trip was planned for me to check up on my sister, Cheryl, who had recently had a bad fall and needed surgery.

It was a beautiful time of reconnection with my beloved sister, she calls me her ‘heart and soul’ and I’m just the luckiest person alive to be loved by her in this way.

I immersed myself with my nieces Shannon and Melissa and their beautiful families. And spent some quality time with my big bro David, his wife Lianne, and his lovely family.

One evening, we were sitting outside under the patio cover watching the huge raindrops of a typical Durban downpour bounce off the pool. My sister and I were reminiscing about an old friend, Jimmy. I learned that through a recent family tragedy, Jimmy, who had been an extraordinary artist in our adolescent years, had recently begun to paint again. Cheryl reconnected us and Jimmy’s gift is now shared with you in this book. Thank you, Jimmy, and your guardian angel Mandz, for these beautiful, compassionate, humorous paintings.

As teenagers, Jimmy and I spent many hours after school off-roading in the sugar cane fields on his motorcycle. It was expressly forbidden by my mother Frances who, although she loved Jimmy, was not keen on her daughter flying around on the back of his motorcycle after school.

I always came home splattered in mud from the farm fields, making sure that I got back in time to clean up before she came home from work. Sorry, mom!

Being back in South Africa after so many years away, I was reminded of the contrast that is inherent there. The daily interactions between people of all races are so kind and achingly beautiful. I have heard it described like this: South Africa is a village; people make friends easily and have a natural way of chatting with anyone they meet. It was lovely to witness this again. For example: the connection with the grocery store cashier, the guy who pumps your gas, or the server in the restaurant. A heartfelt connection, eye-to-eye engagement, no superficial platitudes.

Yet, there is the other side, the contrast, the ‘stranger danger’. Living behind high fences with razor wire on top. I noticed that now this is enhanced with an electrical wire installed above it, to shock intruders. The chains and locks on all the doors in the home. The ritual of barricading the house when you go out or go to bed. The fear that your car will no longer be there when you come out of the store.

Alan Paton, the great South African author first wrote about it in his book “Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful,” back in 1983. This raw contrast of love and fear, of kindness and scarcity, of light and dark. And because of this, you won’t meet people, of all races, who are more willing to play, have fun, enjoy life and make a real connection with each other. South African brotherhood is real.

This book brings to life and introduces a little part of South Africa to my granddaughters Emilia Rose, Isla Mae and Audrey Jane. This is our family heritage; I was born in Durban and their fathers were born in Johannesburg – fifth generation Africans.

Although I have no doubt that they, like their dads, will be fiercely patriotic Canadians, they will also have a little ‘wild’ in them, a little of the African bush that resides in their psyche.

This book is for you to read to your child and also for early readers up to about age 9. The story is a tale about the dream life adventures of the cool curious cousins. It highlights the courage, love, playfulness, might, passion, spirituality, freedom and balance of our children, our animals, our insects, and our plants. Like Louis Armstrong sang,

It’s a wonderful world”.

Trigrams of the tao
All trigrams Tai Chi

Emilia Rose

Isla Mae

Audrey Jane

Author Debra Ford

About the Author: Dr. Debra Ford Msc.D

In her life, first and foremost,

Debra is the doting grandma to Emilia, Isla and Audrey. She is very proud of her sons Joel and Adam who have become extraordinary men, husbands, and fathers. Debra is filled with gratitude for Shirley and Kelsey who have helped her build her Canadian family and make her dreams come true. She is delighted to have shared her life with her husband John and her sister Cheryl.

In her work, Dr. Debra Ford Msc.D

is one of the world’s foremost experts in metaphysical energy. She has a doctorate in Metaphysical science and is a metaphysical philosophy teacher.

Dr. Debra is an ordained minister and member of the American Metaphysical Doctors Association and the Canadian International Metaphysical Ministry. Dr. Debra’s SolePath is Inspirational Teacher and Spiritual Mystic. It is this SolePath that allows her to connect, create and communicate the original SolePath body of work.

Dr. Debra’s work is based on the Tao. She is the author of 17 books including ‘SolePath the path to purpose and a beautiful life’, ‘Daily Pulse, the rhythm of the Tao’, her first children’s book ‘Emilia Rose and the rainbow adventure’, 11 spiritual text books, and this latest book ‘The Curious Cousins and the African Elephant Expedition’.

Join Dr. Debra on the Insight Timer meditation app for guided meditations, LIVE meditations, courses and more.

Original paintings by Jimmy G.

Jimmy is a South African artist and childhood friend of Dr. Debra’s. After a family tragedy, Jimmy, who had been an extraordinary artist in adolescence, started painting again. Jimmy’s gift is shared on these web pages and in Dr. Debra’s children’s book: The Curious Cousins and the African Elephant Expedition. Gratitude and blessings to both Jimmy and his guardian angel, Mandz.

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