“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.” If we fast-forward thirty-one years through his years as a defender of the poor and an organizer for justice: “There’s never been a dance that’s so easy to do It even makes you happy when you’re feeling blue So come on, come on, do the locomotion with me” -- G. Goffin/C. King
In August 1962, while I was an eight year-old enjoying my summer between first and second grades, Eva Boyd, using the stage name Little Eva (a character from UNCLE TOM’S CABIN), was topping the pop charts with the song “The Loco-Motion,” which was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin – for whom Eva was then working as a babysitter. And, in August 1962, Nelson Mandela – who had been forced underground in his leadership role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa – was captured, tried, and eventually given a lifetime sentence for his participation in the resistance movement.
“His children grew up. Relatives passed away. South Africa began to fall apart. There were more protests, more rallies, and violence. The people needed a leader. Nelson snuck a message to the people: ‘I will return.’” “Baby ain’t it somethin’ how we lasted this long You and me provin’ everyone wrong Don’t think we’ll ever get our differences patched Don’t really matter cuz we’re perfectly matched” --Oliver Leiber
In February 1990, when I was a thirty-five year-old preschool director, Paula Abdul -- who had been born the summer that Nelson Mandela was incarcerated -- topped the pop charts with ”Opposites Attract.” (Abdul would later win a Grammy for the song’s music video in which she dances with a cartoon character.) And, in February 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison after twenty-seven and one-half years. He proceeded to participate in the negotiations that led to the first multi-racial elections in South Africa; won the Nobel Peace Prize; and then was elected the country’s first black president: “Millions were given the vote and elected Nelson Mandela their new leader. South Africa was free at last and finally at peace.
The ancestors, The People The world Celebrated. Amandia! Ngawethu!” In NELSON MANDELA, as always, Kadir Nelson distinguishes himself here with his paintings. And while I am not sure that I can characterize anything of Kadir’s as a breakout book at this point in his illustrious career, given all of the medals that he’s already accumulated, I do see this one as a significant book in his growth, in that it is the first traditional length picture book for which he has both done the writing and illustrating.
The results are off the charts. I was cracking up when I read the afterword from which we learn that Nelson Mandela’s birth name Rolihlahla – the one his teacher refused to use -- means “troublemaker.” (Wikipedia explains that this is the colloquial meaning and that the literal translation is “to pull a branch of a tree” – which seems equally fitting.) And, honestly, as I page back through the f&g, picking out my favorite illustrations, I have to say that even after all those medals, Kadir’s picture book art just keeps getting better and better. 40 pages Ages 6-10 978-0061783746
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA
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