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Nelson Mandela

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One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans.

Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy's determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela's triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published August 28, 2012

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About the author

Kadir Nelson

49 books303 followers
Kadir Nelson is a Los Angeles–based painter, illustrator, and author who is best known for his paintings often featured on the covers of The New Yorker magazine, and album covers for Michael Jackson and Drake. His work is focused on African-American culture and history.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 504 reviews
Profile Image for Cathy Field.
23 reviews3 followers
April 25, 2015
Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson, is a beautiful biographical picture book for grades one through five. The story begins with Nelson’s birthname, Rolihlahla, which means troublemaker, and carries on to explain his education, work as a lawyer, involvement in the resistance movement to abolish apartheid, his imprisonments and finally his election as president of South Africa. The pictures are filled with meaning and show aspects of South African culture in a very understandable way. The picture of the elders reciting the stories of old Africa is especially telling. The story is told in an almost chanted way, as if the narrator is passing down an African story that will be told orally for generations to come.
The story of Nelson Mandela can easily be connected to the story of America’s own struggle to end segregation. This text-to-world connection can be made by using text-to-text connections for students by reading books about Martin Luther King Jr. and his work as a leader. Students could compare and contrast the struggles.
Nelson Mandela, exposes the reader to black and white South African culture through the pictures and text of the story. Children will easily see the inequity between European life and black African life when they look at the bright pictures of the white beaches compared to the darker pictures of African life.

Here are scaffolded questions to use when reading this book to children:

Remembering: What was Nelson Mandela’s birth name and what did it

Understanding: Based upon what you have read in the story, what do you
think apartheid is?

Applying: What examples in the story can you find that support the idea that
apartheid was a bad policy?

Analyzing: Do you think Nelson’s 27-year imprisonment on the small island
hurt or helped the resistance movement to end apartheid?
Support your position with evidence from the story.

Evaluating: If you were a South African when Nelson Mandela was
released from prison, would you vote for him to be your
president? Why or why not? Support your choice with facts
from the story and what you know about being a president.

Creating: Create a picture timeline of Nelson Mandela’s life using this story,
the biography at the back of this book and one other source.
Profile Image for Patricia Tilton.
294 reviews2 followers
March 9, 2013
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.”

Synopsis: Nelson was nine years old when his father passed. His mother sent him to live with a powerful tribal chief, where he could continue his studies. He learned stories from the elders about old Africa, where people lived peacefully, the land was rich and fertile and people raised crops. The European settlers arrived and everything changed. Nelson attended school in Johannesburg where he became a lawyer who defended the poor. The government began to divide the people into three groups – African, Indian and European. The divisions were deep with Europeans in power, and apartheid was born. Nelson wanted to win back South Africa for everyone and organized rallies to speak out and fight apartheid. He became a leader among his people, but an enemy to the South African government. He was arrested and put in prison for over 27 years. South Africa erupted into violence and the world put pressure on the government. When Nelson was released from prison in 1990, he said “We must forget our terrible past and build a better future for South Africa. Let us continue to fight for justice and walk the last mile to freedom.” All South Africans had won their right to vote. And, they elected Nelson Mandela their president.

What I like about this book: The first thing you notice is that there is no title on the book. Kadir Nelson’s larger than life oil painting shows power, integrity, determination and strength. It is mesmerizing. The illustrations throughout the book are exquisite and capture the emotion of this very important time in South Africa’s history. Because Nelson Mandela was a man of few words, the author tells the story very simply and powerfully in verse. Kadir Nelson says: “My work is all about healing and giving people a sense of hope and nobility. I want to show the strength and integrity of the human being and the human spirit.” And, that he does.
Profile Image for Agnė.
756 reviews58 followers
October 31, 2020
This picturebook biography is a great introduction to Nelson Mandela, one of the most famous leaders of the 20th century and a 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Kadir Nelson's text is concise yet informative, and his illustrations are BOLD. I mean, just look at that cover. And these:

HOWEVER, even though there is more information about the life of Nelson Mandela in the back matter, certain information is misleadingly omitted (e.g., there's no mention that Mandela’s led resistance was armed; Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela, is portrayed as his only wife, even though he was married thrice).

Finally, it would have been nice to have a glossary in the back matter as well for a couple of foreign phrases used in the text.

P.S. This review by a fellow Goodreader is a great list of some of the things this picturebook could have done better.
Profile Image for L13F_Veronica.
26 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2013
This is an amazing book! The illustrations are illustrious and tells the story of Mandela as a child and how he grew up to show character and courage in the midst of the chaotic norms that had been accepted in South Africa-apartheid. Nelson grows up to find his mate Winnie Mandela and takes a stand for his people, he goes to jail, but over time his fight is won because of his courage, bravery and values that he never gave up on. It's an extraordinary story that children will be engaged and curious to learn about him. He exemplifies great character and responsibility to his society because he stands up for what he believes in, even after it places him in a compromising position.

This book is appropriate for school age children 6-11. It can be used in the classroom to discuss character, injustices, racial inequality, color, race, apartheid, and many other topics. It's important to educate children on controversial topics providing them with facts and historical moments within our history, so they understand how much we've grown as a nation and how we are all connected.
Awesome read!
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
January 25, 2013
A beautiful picture book biography of an important man. Kadir Nelson's paintings take readers into a foreign land and give them a unique view of the key events in Mandela's life.

The writing is strong and uses carefully chosen words to explain difficult concepts such as apartheid. The result is a moving book that can be shared with young children.

Following the story is a more detailed bio on Mandela and a bibliography. The only thing missing in this book for me was a glossary. There were a number of African words used in text and I instinctively turned to the back for help with pronunciation etc, but it wasn't included.

Highly recommend this title, especially as a display item for Black History Month (seriously it has one of the best front covers I've ever seen).
Profile Image for Pauline.
Author 13 books20 followers
August 11, 2016
Daughter chose this book as one of her summer reading book report. I found it to be very well written that little kids can easly find out the facts and remember them. We have learned so much about Mandela through this book
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews109 followers
February 12, 2013
In a way that only Kadir Nelson could capture, this book tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s life, imprisonment and how he became the inspiration he is. This is a very humanizing tale of Mendela, showing his childhood before his father’s death and then his move across South Africa to study under a powerful chief. Mandela attended school and then got involved in fighting apartheid. The book follows him as he is jailed the first time and as he rises to be a threat to those in power and goes into hiding. Mandela returned to South Africa to continue the fight and is then jailed again, doing heavy labor. After being in prison for over 27 years, Mandela was freed. His passion for righting the wrongs of apartheid and speaking for equality of all people shines from every page.

Nelson tells the story of Mandela in verse that is factual but also compelling. He captures the long time spent in prison in a way that children will be able to understand. Cold meals, thin blankets and beating rocks into dust. It shows the futility and the harshness with such clarity. Nelson’s verse also has a great sense of awe for this man and what he has accomplished, that too makes it a very special, honest book.

As always, Nelson’s images are simply wondrous. Here they seem to shine from within whenever Mandela is part of the image. As you can see from the cover illustration, there is all of the human inside his art; it radiates from his work. Shown with detail, interesting perspectives, and ending with a sense of celebration, Nelson’s art is a standout.

This is the story of Nelson Mandela captured fully in a picture book that celebrates all of his accomplishments and what he stands for as a human being. Beautiful. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book650 followers
April 8, 2014
This is a moving tribute to one of the most respected leaders of the twentieth century. The narrative is short and does not overwhelm the reader with details, but gives a concise account of Nelson Mandela's life, highlighting the most major and life-changing events. The author's note at the end offers a bit more detail, but this book is useful more for providing an inspiring message than as a reference book.

The illustrations are simply amazing and really capture the facial expressions and emotions of this turbulent time in South African history. I love his pictures of Nelson (who was born Rolihlahla, which means 'troublemaker') - they really are wonderful and show him growing from a boy to a man to a wise elder.

We really enjoy reading Kadir Nelson's books and when I discovered that he'd written this book, I just knew we had to borrow it. I was not disappointed. Nelson Mandela may no longer be with us, but books like this make sure that his work and his life will not be soon forgotten. We really enjoyed reading this book together.
Profile Image for Jenny.
2,829 reviews28 followers
March 26, 2014
I absolutely love the illustrations! Kadir Nelson does an incredible job illustrating books and evoking emotion. While I enjoyed the text, I was left wanting more. Particularly because my children have heard of him but know very little about him, I wanted more details about his life and what he accomplished. There is an author's note at the back that provided some more details, but I wanted a timeline and even more details.
Profile Image for Angela.
1,184 reviews23 followers
May 10, 2012
Inspirational and impressive. I've come to expect nothing less of Kadir Nelson and this picture book biography of one of the most important leaders of our time does not disappoint. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sarah.
374 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2013
We unintentionally paired this with Herd Boy. Reading the latter, it was cool to watch Malcolm recognize Mandela (traveling incognito in Herd Boy) as the main character from a book we had read two nights before. Putting it all together, that one.
29 reviews
February 26, 2018
This book was excellent because, again, of Kadir Nelson's passion for African American history. The reader can tell the time and effort he put into each illustration in order to capture the charisma of such an impacting historical figure. And I appreciated his selections of facts to write alongside these great images. He gives readers a great background and insight to Mandela's life while educating young kids, and adults like myself, on the importance of his contributions. This is an excellent culturally educational book for children above approximately the 3rd grade level.
9 reviews
February 12, 2019
Biography- Nelson Mandela is a great synthesis of the man’s life that provides details from his journey that helps children understand the struggles he went through to fight for equality for his people. This book can be read and enjoyed by children in grades 3-4. The text could be understood by 3rd graders, but the themes may be a little too complex for third graders to navigate on their own.

I love the way that this book was written and tells the life of Nelson Mandela. His life is told in a format that is easy to read and understand and reads like a typical story. The short sentences of the book set an almost poetic tone that conveys the hardships Mandela faced. The illustrations in this book are beautiful as well. The pictures in this book are meaningful and invoke emotion. They show South American culture and the ways people were feeling during the times of Apartheid.

One way to use this book in a classroom could be to introduce the genre of biographies. It could be used as a great read aloud to students. This book would be good to use as an example of biographies because it is different than what students may think about when they picture biographies. The book reads like a story, not like a list of details about a person. There are no trivial dates or random facts like some biographies include. Nelson Mandela could be used in a social studies unit as well as focusing on agents of change or role models. Students can learn from Nelson Mandela’s passion and devotion to fighting for what he believes is right. From this book, students can learn that to be an agent of change, they have to notice the injustice in the world around them and use their skills to change it, even when faced with challenges.
Profile Image for Maggie Tokuda-Hall.
Author 9 books724 followers
July 16, 2020
super gorgeous illustrations, and does a good job abbreviating a long and accomplished life.
383 reviews
July 28, 2018
I am on a mission to acquaint myself with all of Kadir Nelson's artworks. Mandela, the picture biography, has the striking, moving artwork that Kadir Nelson is known for. I found the text, which Nelson also wrote, not nearly as moving. Resistance leaders are often 'saintified' after their death, and this book seemed to me to do the same thing. Young readers are not presented with the paradoxes of Nelson's Mandela's life. Instead this seems more of an illustrated timeline of his life on Earth.

There are two shocking teachable discussion points on the very first page. Nelson Mandela was the only child in his tribe chosen for school. What? Why? Explain more, please. Discussing that shocking inequity of resources would be a good way for children to feel the injustice of apartheid. Can young people imagine what it would be like to see their friend go off to school while they and everyone else stays home?

Then, on Nelson Mandela's first day of school, his white teacher refused to use his given Xhosa tribal name, Rolihlahla. What? Can you imagine being Mandela's mother and a teacher refused to use the name you lovingly bestowed on your child? It's outrageous that Mandela is known to the world by an apartheid-given name, not his own name. I never knew that. Since the text doesn't provide answers, those discussion points could be great inquiry questions.

Two issues the picture book glosses over are Nelson Mandela becoming divorced from Winnie post-prison, and his armed struggle. If anyone had the right to armed struggle, didn't Mandela? The American Revolution for liberty is depicted as an armed struggle in picture books, why doesn't Mandela get the same truth? Why can't Kadir Nelson can't show that truth? Also, the book makes it seems as if Nelson and Winnie lived happily ever after. They didn't. Isn't that yet another cost to Nelson Mandela and his family that apartheid contributed to? A broken family? Shouldn't it be discussed?

One visual I thought the book missed was a full-length artwork of the moment Mandela got out of prison. I remember that moment. I gasped. I didn't know much about his struggle then, but the regalness of Mandela's bearing told any human being watching Mandela's story as a leader would only get bigger.

I wish the text carried more emotion with it. For Mandela to forgive his jailers, his white countrymen, and lead all people is an example of humanitarianism that the world bowed to at his death. How many other people could do what he did? Live through 27.5 years of imprisonment? Then turn around and lead without bitterness? What an example! I am not sure children will feel in their bones the incredible nature of this from the text. That's where I find the book could be improved. Every child in the world would benefit from feeling the extraordinary character in Nelson Mandela in their bones.
Profile Image for Sue Conolly.
8 reviews2 followers
November 16, 2015
I read this book today as a way of feeling positive about the world.

Both words and illustrations by Kadir Nelson were woven expertly throughout the book to create this story. Words are made easy to read in some places (white on dark background, dark on light background), and the author makes you work to read words in other places (the sign on the beach has letters that are large and prominent but the reader has to dig into the valley of the book to see the whole message, the dark words on the dark background of the page where Mandela has gone into hiding adds to the narrative).

The colours throughout the book were stunning - warm and strong, dark when they needed to be dark and released from darkness when the narrative called for it (look at the page of Nelson and Winnie on the page when it talks about their marriage. Even though the pages surrounding it are dark with the despair of oppression, this one features the hope of open sky as a backdrop. The blue sky makes a return toward the end of the book as apartheid is overthrown.

It would be hard for me to pick one favourite spread in this book, but if I could cheat I would say that I loved the pages that were most up close and personal. Nelson's mother sending him away for school made my heart catch in my throat and I had a small personal connection as my own Dad was sent away at a young age to school in Africa. Boys who grow up before their time become wise men later on, I thought. The page where Mandela is in hiding also features his face which is clearly deep in thought. What is he thinking? What will he do next? He's hiding, but he is certainly not resting. The spread as Mandela is released from prison takes my breath away. His smile is larger than the whole world, there's that hint of bright blue sky, and the emotion caught up in Winnie Mandela's eye. You don't need to see any more of her face to feel what she's thinking from this picture.

I took a star off only for the font, which I found tiring to read at times. Particularly on the page with the explanatory notes where the text is dense, I found it hard to get through. I forgave that in the main section of the book because honestly, the pictures were so stunning they told most of the story by themselves.

Kadir Nelson's story and pictures told this story really, really well. I read this book today because there is badness and crookedness in the world. So often we hear about the bad things that happen if they happen to white people (the most recent being the attacks on Paris as I write this), but Nelson Mandela was a man who insisted that people listen to the stories of apartheid when they didn't really want to hear.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.3k reviews276 followers
November 29, 2013
Relying on powerful words and visually stunning illustrations, Kadir Nelson traces events in the life of Nelson Mandela, called Rolihlahla as a child. He includes moments that will appeal to children; for instance, how his name was changed when he went to school, the loss of his father, and being sent far from home to study. Readers will be swept away by the young man's determination to make a change in South Africa, influenced by the words of his ancestors and the elders and his own innate sense of justice. They will also marvel at the courage and determination it must have taken for Mandela not to give up hope for a brighter future once he had been imprisoned for fighting for the right cause. How does a man survive being in prison for more than 27 years and still believe in justice and good? Somehow, this picture book shows through its text and illustrations that there is more good than bad. Ultimately, Mandela's triumph and election to the presidency of South Africa should inspire the next generation to do the right things in all matters and to figure out what matters to them. This is another noteworthy entry into the already-solid Kadir Nelson body of work. I doubt that I have seen a book as lovely as this one. Why the 4 stars then? As I read, I wanted a glossary and punctuation guide for some of the words such as "Amandla! Ngawethu" (unpaged) used in the story. Yes, readers can probably figure out their meaning from the context, but I'd like to be sure what they mean and how to pronounce them.
Profile Image for Nicole Marzan.
35 reviews
December 1, 2014
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson is a biography told in a narrative format. The story begins with Nelson as a young old boy playing "on the grassy hills of Qunu." The narrator says that Nelson was the smartest of all the Madiba children and was the only one chosen to go to school. When Nelson's father dies, he is sent to live with a "powerful chief" so he can continue his education. Nelson learns about what old Africa was like before their land was taken over by Europe. Nelson then studied to be a lawyer as many Africans became poor and powerless. The story then discusses apartheid and Nelson's efforts to end it.

Kadir Nelson is officially one of my favorite illustrators. He used so much detail in his pictures. The different shades that he accomplished with his oil paints give each page a lot of dimension; the illustrations look like they are popping out of the page. Also, he does a good job with the faces of each character that he illustrates. Their eyes and mouth convey so much emotion, which contribute to the story a lot. His illustrations of the beach do a very good job at demonstrating what apartheid is to younger readers--he shows a beach with a sign that says, "WHITE AREA." Overall, I thought this book did a very good job at explaining the life of Nelson Mandela in an interesting and engaging way.
Profile Image for Stefanie Green.
17 reviews1 follower
June 4, 2014
1.) An opening for the book (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006, p. 226)
2.) Identify the 2-3 opening moves that are incorporated in the opening

1. Nelson Mandela was born with the name Rolihlahla, which has an interesting meaning. The name Rolihlahla translates to "troublemaker." From his photo on the cover of this book, would you guess that this man is ornery and stirs up trouble? If not, how do you think disproved the meaning of his name and became one of the people in our study of influential figures?

2. Raise interest in the topic. Raise questions to spark curiosity. Ask children to make connections to a previously read text (Influential Historical Leaders Text Set).

3. This is an important selection to include in my text set on Influential Historical Leaders because it shows a person from a different country and heritage than the other two selections. It is vital to make sure students of all backgrounds are represented in the texts presented, especially on such an important topic.

4. (September 15, 2012). Booklist. http://www.booksinprint.com.leo.lib.u...#
Profile Image for Annikka.
35 reviews1 follower
December 9, 2015
Summarize the book:

This is a picture book that tells the life of Nelson Mandela. The book follows Nelson Mandela from the time he was 9 and sent away to attend school, the start of his fight against apartheid, to his time in prison, and finally to him becoming the first black president of South Africa.

Identify the characteristics from the text that support the specific genre:

The story of Nelson Mandela is a biography because it is the story of his life written by another person. The book is beautifully illustrated, and is told in short verse.

Identify specific concepts that could be integrated into the classroom:

Nelson Mandela could be integrated into the classroom through a lesson on tolerance, acceptance, and patience. It could also be used to show how someone can forgive and not let experiences change who they are.

Provide any other suggestions that would be useful regarding literary content, reading level, and other ways in which the book might be integrated:

This book is listed for grades 1-3. This book might also be integrated into a history lesson about Africa, or specifically South Africa, either in the younger grades or in upper elementary.
Profile Image for Alexandria.
51 reviews
November 27, 2013
Another beautifully illustrated book by Kadir Nelson, this is the biography of Nelson Mandela; a man who was determined to change South Africa by seeking equality for people of all color. Prior to reading this book I didn’t know much about him, so I was really looking forward to reading it and I’m so glad I did! The reader is taken through Nelson Mandela’s life from beginning to end, and boy was that a remarkable life. The illustrations along with the text are packed with so much power and emotion. Even with just the cover alone people can tell that this book is about such an honorable influential person. This book is great to have in the classroom because students will enjoy reading it, as well as will learn about such a remarkable person. This story is a great starter book for students to use for the introduction of a biography project.
Profile Image for RLL22016 Phoebe.
13 reviews
September 24, 2016
Nelson Mandela was a very good read. Even in this short picture book I could feel the experience of this young boy and the challenges of his life as he grew into a young man. Illustrator Kadir Nelson did an excellent job of bring the pictures to life. I felt like they jump off the page at you. He also, did a great job of translating the meanings of different Swahili words. I would recommend this International book to upper grades, not only to be read but to be used as a foundation for researching other information. One thing readers of all ages can take away from this book is to never give up on your purpose. Mandela never stop fighting for what he knew to be his calling and what was right.
902 reviews5 followers
December 11, 2016
I have one word for this book: GORGEOUS. It seriously has the most beautiful illustrations I've ever seen in a children's book. The amazing, amazing paintings tell the story almost without words. Kids and grownups will be blown away by how beautiful this is. The story itself also stays true to Madiba's past; although a little oversimplified for my taste, it is a kid's book so they get away with it. This is a quick, beautiful read that is a wonderful story for any child.
50 reviews
October 27, 2013
Nelson Mandela is the inspiring story of how one man’s struggles and fight for equality in South Africa, brought a country together. Readers are captivated through beautiful illustrations and words about a young boy’s determination to change his country and his journey to eventually becoming a South African president who believes in equality for people of all colors.
Profile Image for Danish Gondal.
9 reviews
February 9, 2015
when you climb up a great hill you realize that there are many more hills to climb , life is a journey not a destination and in this journey we encounter great hurdles which needs to be overcome before we get to the goal ,never to give up,tenacity,determination and faith one can achieve great success in life .Wonderful biography
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