Nelson Mandela

by Kadir Nelson (Author) Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Nelson Mandela
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

This stunning picture book biography of Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson is a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor award.

In this lush, acclaimed book, award-winning author-illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of global icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela in poignant free 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. Mandela believed in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Readers will be inspired by Mandela's triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Resources in the back include an author's note and a bibliography listing additional sources for readers who want to find out more. Perfect for sharing at home or in the classroom.

Kadir Nelson's acclaimed books include The Undefeated, winner of the Caldecott Medal as the most distinguished picture book of the year, Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.

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Publishers Weekly

Nelson's (I Have a Dream) large, luminous, and almost photographic paintings make this an extremely powerful picture-book biography of South Africa's first black president. The wordless cover alone is arresting, as an older Mandela gazes serenely at readers (the book's title and Nelson's author/illustrator credit appear on the back). From a silhouette of Mandela (born Rolihlahla, which means "troublemaker") as a boy play fighting with sticks on a country hillside to a portrait of him as a bearded young man staring out from behind prison bars, Nelson's pictures are an immediate focal point, but also help tell the story. The straightforward narrative is broken up like verse ("The state vowed to put Nelson in jail/ and he went underground./ He wore different disguises/ and lived in the shadows"), clearly explaining the concept of apartheid and the efforts of Mandela and others to fight it. Concluding author notes offer more details about Mandela's life. It's a solid biography in its own right, but thanks to Nelson's characteristically stunning paintings, it soars. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.)

Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-5—This picture-book biography matches Mandela's outsize achievements with large, powerful images, resulting in a presentation that will seize and hold readers' attention. The front cover features a portrait of Mandela that fills the space. His pleasant but determined expression immediately projects a sense of strength. The title and author move to the back cover so as not to compete with the opening image. A stark graphic design incorporating black, green, yellow, and red, colors from the South African flag, on the title page helps set the stage for the narrative. Nelson's paintings range from poignant, when Mandela's mother tells him good-bye as he leaves home for more education at the age of nine, to exuberant, when Mandela and 100 men arrested for protesting apartheid respond by dancing and singing, to inspiring, when people organize rallies demanding his release. When freedom finally comes, "a colorful sea of people" celebrate. Mandela's heroic struggle might be new to many children today, and Nelson's dynamic treatment provides enough detail to give a sense of the man and to acknowledge his important place in history.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"A dramatic encounter indeed."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson is the Caldecott Medal-winning artist of The Undefeated and a two-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. Among his numerous other awards are three NAACP Image Awards, two Coretta Scott King Author Awards, and three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The New Yorker, and his paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of notable institutions across the country, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Kadir lives with his wife is Southern California, and invites you to visit him at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date
May 14, 2019
BISAC categories
JNF007020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Historical
JNF007070 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Political
JNF038010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Africa
JNF025010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Africa
Library of Congress categories
South Africa
Mandela, Nelson
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2014 - 2014

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