Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
is the official picture book of Mandela’s bestselling autobiography, which he wrote secretly during the 27 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island. This biography paints a powerful portrait of the man who stood up against apartheid in South Africa - at great personal cost!
I found the most heart-wrenching part of the book to be the description of the harsh conditions Mandela endured during imprisonment. He writes that “my cell was so tiny that when I lay down on my sleeping mat, my feet and hands could touch opposite walls.”
With a thin blanket and a bucket for a toilet, Mandela sat in isolation, allowed only two visitors a year and two letters that were rudely screened by the prison guards. Yet despite these spirit-breaking conditions, Mandela vowed to continue his long walk to freedom.
Even in its abridged format, this biography for children contains a wealth of information that will help young readers learn about Mandela's remarkable life, including:
• An Introduction in Mandela’s own words explaining why he chose to fight for the freedom of his people.
• A Map of South Africa that shows places like the tiny village of Mvezo where he was born on July 18, 1918 and University of Fort Hare where he went to school.
• A Timeline listing important events, such as 1952 when Mandela opened the first black law firm in South Africa (with Oliver Tambo) and 1958 when he married Winnie Madikizela.
• A Glossary of Terms such as the African National Congress (ANC), apartheid, and de Klerk (the president of South Africa who ordered the release of Mandela).
I only wish that the book had also provided a pronunciation guide as well so that young readers could learn how to say some of the African words, such as Rolihlahla (Mandela’s birth name, which means “troublemaker”!), Xhosas (his tribe name) and Mqhekezweni (a South African village). This inspiration biography for children captures Mandela’s message of “peace, democracy, and freedom” that will be shared for generations. Black History Fact:
In 1960 in Sharpeville, which is near Johannesburg, 5000 people marched to a police station in a peaceful protest against the passbook law. Police opened fire on these unarmed demonstrators, killing 69 and injuring 400 others. It was a tragedy that shocked the world and convinced Mandela and the ANC that an army would be a more persuasive way to fight apartheid.
For more picture book biographies about courageous people who fought for freedom, try If a Bus Could Talk: The Rosa Parks Story
by Faith Ringgold or Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford (click on links below).