Nelson Mandela – Black History Month

Nelson Mandela9780061783746_p0_v1_s260x420Nelson Mandela

Kadir Nelson, Author and Illustrator

Katherine Tegen Books, Biography, Jan. 2, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Courage, Determination, Equality, Civil Rights,  Racism, Apartheid

Opening: Rolihlahla played barefooted on the grassy hills of Qunu.  He fought boys with sticks and shot birds with slingshots.  The smartest Madiba child of thirteen, he was the only one chosen for school.  His new teacher would not say his Xhosa name.  She called him Nelson instead.” 

Synopsis:  Nelson was nine years old when his father passed.  His mother sent him to live with a powerful tribal chief, where he could continue his studies.  He learned stories from the elders about old Africa, where people lived peacefully, the land was rich and fertile and people raised crops.  The European settlers arrived and everything changed.  Nelson attended school in Johannesburg where he became a lawyer who defended the poor.  The government began to divide the people into three groups — African, Indian and European.  The divisions were deep with Europeans in power, and apartheid was born.   Nelson wanted to win back South Africa for everyone and organized rallies to speak out and fight apartheid.  He became a leader among his people, but an enemy to the South African government.   He was arrested  and put in prison for over 27 years.  South Africa erupted into violence and the world put pressure on the government.  When Nelson was released from prison in 1990, he said “We must forget our terrible past and build a better future for South Africa.  Let us continue to fight for justice and walk the last mile to freedom.”  All South Africans had won their right to vote.  And, they elected Nelson Mandela their president.

What I like about this book:  The first thing you notice is that there is no title on the book.  Kadir Nelson’s larger than life oil  painting shows power, integrity, determination and strength.  It is mesmerizing.   The illustrations throughout the book are exquisite and capture the emotion of this very important time in South Africa’s history.  Because Nelson Mandela was a man of few words, the author tells the story very simply and powerfully in verse.  Kadir Nelson says: “My work is all about healing and giving people a sense of hope and nobility.  I want to show the strength and integrity of the human being and the human spirit.”  And, that he does. You can visit Kadir at his website.

Resources:  There are pages of historical information at the end of the book, with suggested readings.  For teaching resources and activities go to Mandela at 90.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

39 thoughts on “Nelson Mandela – Black History Month

    • Jarm, I would love to visit South Africa. I could stare at that cover forever — that is how powerful it is. And, that was the intent of the author. And, I’m sure Katherine Tegin had some thoughts on that.


  1. I think it speaks volumes not having a title. I bet he is the only person in the world who could pull that off. Surely the most amazing man of all time. Great choice, Pat.


    • Yes, I felt that way too Catherine. I have loved Nelson Mandela for years. To walk out of prison and tell people and urge people to focus on building a new South Africa and let go of the past, is a very evolved human being. Such forgiveness.


  2. Tremendous work. That opening tells you already so much! And what an astute choice to leave the artwork to speak alone on the front cover.

    Kathereine Tegen Books is a super imprint too.


    • Joanna, after hearing from Emma what it’s like to work with Katherine Tegen for so long, I wonder how much influence she had. It was a brilliant idea. I could stare at the cover for a long time – it speaks to you!


  3. Just the cover itself is so powerful. I love that there is no title. It doesn’t need one! Thanks for sharing this gorgeous book with us.


  4. You had me at the cover image, and then when I saw the name Kadir Nelson, I was doubly hooked. I *MUST* read this book. Nelson Mandela is such an important part of the world’s history and development. Thank you, Pat. I appreciated learning how he came by the name Nelson, as well. So much has been done to people of color — people of African origin, people of indigenous communities (I’m thinking not only of the scourge of apartheid, and of the racial turmoil in the deep South, but also of the way the residential schools stripped so many Native Canadians of their heritage and identity.) Thank goodness for books like this that show how the balance is finally tilting in the other direction.


    • Beth, it’s one you want to own. After Emma’s discussion about Katherine Tegen (on your blog) you wonder her influence in the brilliant decision to not use his name. I’ve always held Nelson Mandela in such awe. You are right. He has impacted the world. The balance is tilting, but there is still more to do globally. I’m glad you enjoyed the review.


  5. I’m surprised to hear this biography is written in verse! I’ve never seen a biography in that format before. I’ll be sure to see if my library has a copy because I’d love to read this!


  6. This looks and sounds like quite a unique book. You always seem to find those special stories. Mr Mandela is quite and inspiration and this book looks like a nice tribute to him. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!


  7. I love that cover! And I’m VERY impressed that the author was able to cover all that material in a way that’s accessible to 4-8 year olds! I’m going to have to check this one out! Thanks so much for adding it to our list, Pat!


  8. Wow. The cover is beautiful! I haven’t heard of Nelson Mandela before. I am going to ask my mom to get this book and I am going to go visit the website. I like the quote you have – “My work is all about healing and giving people a sense of hope and nobility. I want to show the strength and integrity of the human being and the human spirit.”


  9. Wow! I am going to have to get this one. It’s interesting that it doesn’t have a title on the cover. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. The opening is powerful. Thanks for sharing this, Pat.


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