Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson. Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s, 2013. 40 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 4-8.  ISBN: 9780061783746.

When I was young, South Africa lived under apartheid, a system that segregated whites and blacks. Living conditions for the blacks were horrendous. The White government responded to protest rallies with violence. And Nelson Mandela, a black man who was the face of resistance to apartheid, sat in jail encouraging hope, and continued protests. The rest of the world looked on and tried to figure out what they could do to end the situation in South Africa. In the United States, protesters encouraged investors to divest themselves of any stock in companies that did business in South Africa. The world looked to the hero, Nelson Mandela. Within the year after the Berlin wall came down, apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Great change was indeed possible.

Kadir Nelson’s strikingly beautiful book about Nelson Mandela pictures him, above all, as a man of incredible strength. In each of the illustrations, Mandela is powerful. It appears there is no weakness in him, nor any doubt about the necessity of ending apartheid. The book follows Mandela from his boyhood home to law school to his political work in trying to end apartheid.  When the government issued an arrest warrant for him, he went underground and continued to organize protests against apartheid. He was caught and jailed for 27 years. Then apartheid ended and Mandela was freed. He became the first black president of South Africa. Mandela’s view is that in this new South Africa all races are welcomed.

The story is told in Kadir Nelson’s strong illustrations and in short sections of prose that read almost like poetry. In the back of the book is a two-page spread detailing Nelson Mandela’s biography.

To this day, Nelson Mandela is, in my mind, a symbol of refusal to accept oppression. Kadir Nelson’s book will introduce new generations to Nelson Mandela the man and Nelson Mandela the symbol.

Other Blog Reviews: Richie’s Picks; Waking Brain Cells; Rhapsody in Books Weblog; Kid Lit Frenzy; Wrapped in Foil; Creative Madness Mama

I Have A Dream

I Have a Dream written by Martin Luther King, Jr.  Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012.  40 pages.  Recommended for all ages.  ISBN: 9780375958878.

Wow.  In 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most important speeches of the 20th century. It is entitled “I Have a Dream” and it was delivered as part of the March on Washington, a march in support of civil rights for African Americans. This book pairs the words of the last third of the speech with Kadir Nelson’s outstanding illustrations.

Nelson has won two Caldecott Honors, a Robert F. Sibert Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor Award.  In “I Have a Dream” he captures the power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Nelson includes two head shots of Dr. King.  The first is paired with “I have a dream today.” The second is paired with “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.” Both show the strength and intensity of Dr. King. Nelson also paints a two-page spread of a white hand and a black hand holding each other.  It’s hard to imagine a better way to visualize the meaning of the speech.

At the end of the book the entire speech is printed. The book also comes with a CD of the entire speech. It’s remarkable to listen to the speech on the CD, notice when the book begins to pick up the words of the speech, and continue to listen to the speech while reading the words and looking at the illustrations. It makes for a very powerful experience for one who was a child during the civil rights movement.

“I Have a Dream” is an excellent tool to open new generations of children to the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This book demonstrates that Dr. King’s power continues into the 21st century.