Review of the Week

mandela-300wNelson, Kadir.  Nelson Mandela.  Kadir Nelson, Illus. Non-fiction. K. Tegen, 2013. [32]p. $17.99, 978-0-06-178374-6, PLB $17.89, 978-0-06-178376-0.  ADDITIONAL. GRADES 1-3.
Nelson Mandela is portrayed as an iconic figure in this picture book biography for younger readers that begins with Mandela’s youngest years and ends with his election as President of South Africa. The large, luminous oil paintings, rendered in shades of brown add to that larger-than-life portrayal. While it is difficult to translate the complexities of apartheid to a young audience, Nelson’s textual representation and accompanying illustrations downgrade the severity of the polices. “The government grew harsh and created a cruel policy. It split people in three—African. Indian. European. It was called apartheid. The people were set apart. “‘European Only”’ beaches. “‘European Only”’ parks. ‘”European Only’” theaters. And the people protested.” The accompanying illustration focuses on a sign at a beach designating it a “white area.” In fact, apartheid policies divided people into four groups, black, white, coloured (mixed race), and Asian. Furthermore, segregation affected more than facilities; it encompassed education, voting rights, medical care and, for many thousands, forced relocation to poor, racially-segregated “homelands.” A more detailed text would have made Mandela’s accomplishments that much more remarkable. An author’s note fills in some of the blanks but is written at a much higher reading level, leaving it to others to convey the information to the book’s younger readers. A short bibliography is also included.
Helen Bloch, Oakland PL

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