Learn about ‘Nelson’


Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:12 p.m.

Your mother sent you to your room the other day. You hate that.

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“Nelson Mandela” by Kadir Nelson, c. 2103, Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99, 32 pages. (Special to the Guardian)

You didn't think you were being naughty, but Mama punished you. You had to sit in your room alone for awhile and you cried.

Now imagine being locked in a room for years and years and years for no good reason. That's what happened to a great man in Africa, and in the book, "Nelson Mandela" by Kadir Nelson, you will read about that man.

Rolihlahla was smart, and smartness like that needed an education. At school, Rolihlahla's teacher refused to say his Xhosa name, so she called him "Nelson."

Nelson became a lawyer so he could help his poor and powerless African countrymen.

But something else bothered Nelson just as much as poverty: the South African government had a policy that split its citizens into three groups, and it wasn't fair. They called it apartheid, and Africans hated it.

So Nelson organized rallies and spoke to the people. He was jailed for speaking up, but he never stopped fighting against apartheid. A warrant for his arrest was put out, but Nelson never stopped fighting — until he was caught, arrested and imprisoned.

He was sent to a small island where he sat in a tiny room every day, eating cold meals and working hard labor. He was there so long that when he got out, his children had all grown up. More importantly, South Africa had ended apartheid.

Finally, after almost 28 years, Nelson Mandela was set free. He was elected as South Africa's new leader, and the people celebrated.

Author Kadir Nelson is honest in telling what happened, without being scary. Curious children will appreciate that this book is made kid-friendlier with a two-page section at the end that could help answer lots of questions.

But Kadir Nelson's words are only half the appeal.

Nelson is also the illustrator here, and his paintings are addictive. It's the artwork that makes this a book you will want to browse, whether your children are around or not.

Children ages 4-7 will love this story, and I think older gradeschoolers will appreciate it, too.

Terri Schlichenmeyer lives in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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