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Remembering Nelson Mandela

Former South African president and revolutionary Nelson Mandela passed away last week. Honor his memory by reading (and sharing) these recommended books about Mandela, his anti-apartheid activism, and his political career.

At the start of his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (abridged by Christ van Wyk), Mandela’s gentle voice recollects a near idyllic childhood. Ensuing years encompass his association with the ANC, the opening of his law office, and his imprisonment; the book ends in 1994 when Mandela is elected president of South Africa. Paddy Bouma’s warm-toned illustrations, loosely outlined in black on butter-hued pages, cast a rich glow over the story. (Flash Point/Roaring Brook, 5–8 years)

Moving swiftly through crucial moments in Mandela’s life, from childhood tragedy to his outcry against apartheid to his nearly thirty-year imprisonment, release, and eventual presidency, Kadir Nelson’s pictorial biography Nelson Mandela aptly honors the South African revolutionary. Nelson’s signature large-scale portraits capture both the strength and emotions of his subject — particularly the text-less cover featuring Mandela’s visage with a dignified expression. (Tegen/HarperCollins, 5–8 years)

Herd boy Malusi has grander ambitions: to be president. After making a courageous rescue of their flock from baboons, Malusi and his friend Lungisa see a fancy car drive up. Inside is a man (clearly Nelson Mandela, though unnamed) who offers encouragement to Malusi to pursue his dream. Author/illustrator Niki Daly’s expansive illustrations for The Herd Boy highlight the beauty of the South African landscape’s rocky austerity. (Eerdmans, 5–8 years)

In Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela, journalist and editor Bill Keller presents a well-rounded portrait of the South African civil rights activist, from freedom fighter to prisoner to president and beyond. Keller’s vivid writing brings to life his subject and the complex history of South Africa. Quotations, newspaper excerpts, anecdotes, and interviews with Mandela provide the basis for the book’s information. Many photographs chronicle the events. (Kingfisher, 8–11 years)

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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