BOOK REVIEW: ‘Grandad Mandela’ by Zazi, Ziwelene & Zindzi Mandela with Sean Qualls

c.2018, Lincoln Children’s Books
​$17.99 ($23.99 Canada)
40 pages

Please tell me a family story.

You never get tired of hearing about your Mom and Dad, and how much fun they had on their first date; or that one tale about your uncle (so funny!); or the story about your cousin’s very first car. Please tell me a story, you ask, and in “Grandad Mandela” by Zazi, Ziwelene and Zindzi Mandela and Sean Qualls, two children hear of their great-grandfather’s heroism.

When Zazi and Ziwelene were playing at their Grandma’s house one day, they found a picture of someone they’d never met, and they asked Grandma Zindzi to tell them about the man in the photo. He was Grandad Mandela, Grandma Zindzi’s father.

The story was a familiar one; they’d heard it before, but there were parts of it that they loved hearing again. Zazi always asked why Grandad Mandela went to jail, and Grandma Zindzi answered that Grandad went to jail “because he was fighting against apartheid … a law in South Africa that separated black people and white people.”

Grandad Mandela hated that law. He hated it enough to be imprisoned for his beliefs, and that was “hard” for his family. Grandma Zindzi was just a little girl then, and she had to be sent away to school, for her own safety. Being away from her mother, Big Mummy, was especially difficult but it made Grandma Zindzi stronger.

Ziwelene asked where Grandad Mandela went to school, and Grandma Zindzi told the children so much more about him. His need for justice in South Africa started very early; even as a boy, he was a champion of equality and many people around the world agreed with Grandad that apartheid was “evil.” He was willing to be jailed to end apartheid, and he was glad to know that “people were pushing harder … for him to be free.”

That meant a lot, so Grandad waited patiently until eventually, he was freed. Later, he became president of South Africa and this year, the 100th anniversary of his birth, there is one big way that children everywhere can honor him …

“Grandad Mandela” may be a lot for your child to take in.

Don’t be mistaken: the story that Zazi, Ziwelene & Zindzi Mandela, with Sean Qualls, tells is an important, almost essential, one that young children may not know. It’s absolutely a great way to start teaching about Mandela’s legacy. But the narrative for this book is long, perhaps too long for squirmy picture-book connoisseurs, and it contains a lot of big words that kids may not quite grasp.

Also, while Qualls’ illustrations set the tone for this book perfectly, they may not be colorful enough for youngsters who are used to the flash usually found in other age-appropriate books.

Even so, as we near what would have been Mandela’s 100th birthday, here’s a great book to have around — especially if your child is patient or a little past the picture-book age. Five- to 8-year-olds might like “Grandad Mandela” a lot; for younger children, that may be a different story.

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