1997 African Studies Association Children’s Book Award
1997 Jane Addams Honor Book
1997 International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society
Thembi, who is six, spends most of her after-school time with her great grandmother, Gogo, who is 100. They are blacks in South Africa in 1994. Soon the first election day on which blacks can vote will arrive. No one in the family expects Gogo to vote. She hasn’t left the house for years. Gogo, however, is determined to exercise her right to vote.
Thembi asks Gogo why it is so important for her to vote. Gogo answers: “Thembi, black people in South Africa have fought for many years for the right to vote. This is the first time we have a chance to vote for our own leaders, and it might be my last. That is why I must vote, no matter how many miles I have to walk, no matter how long I have to stand in line.”
Gogo insists that Thembi accompany her to the polling place. Thembi is very proud of her role in helping her grandmother to vote. She asks many questions at the polling place. The voting officers are pleased to answer her questions so that she will be ready to vote when she becomes 18.
Afterwards there is rejoicing about the voting, and then more rejoicing when Nelson Mandela wins the presidency. But the important thing, more important than Mandela’s win, is that Gogo was able to vote.
The illustrations give a sense of the characters and the importance of what they are doing. Each two-page spread has a fair number of words. Because of that, this might work best as a book read aloud to elementary school students.
In order to keep a democracy, it is vitally important that people vote. We often forget this in the United States. This story is a beautiful lesson in the importance of voting.