Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Laaren Brown, Lenny Hort
For ages 10 to 12
DK CHILDREN, 2006   ISBN: 0756621097

On July 18 1918, a baby born was born in a royal Xhosa hut in South Africa. His name was Rolihlahla, which meant “troublemaker” in the Xhosa language. The baby’s family could not have known then that Rolihlahla would indeed be a troublemaker, and that the trouble he was going to cause in the future would make him a world leader.

While Rolihlahla was still a little boy, his father Henry, who was a chief, dared to antagonize the local English Judge. Henry was stripped of his rank, and his family lost their wealth and their position in their tribe. Rolihlahla and his mother moved to a different village, but his father still visited them, and when Rolihlahla was seven, his father enrolled him in a local school that was run by missionaries. As per tradition, Rolihlahla was given an English name on his first day of school, and so Rolihlahla became Nelson.

After the death of his father, Nelson went to live with the chief who was the leader of the Thembu people. Nelson went to school, and by observing the chief, he learned what it took to be a good and effective leader. The lessons he learned at this time would stand him in good stead in the years to come.

When Nelson was sixteen, he completed the rituals that would make him a man in the eyes of the tribe. After the rituals were over, a guest chief spoke to Nelson and the other young men, telling them that “We are slaves in our own country.” Nelson had never heard anyone criticize the whites before.

Nelson went to college, but he was expelled for refusing to toe the line, and later he and his cousin Justice ran away from their home because they wanted to live their own lives. In Johannesburg, Nelson managed to get a job working as a clerk for a lawyer, and he began to become more “politically aware.” He marched in demonstrations, and then he joined the ANC (African National Congress). Nelson had begun what would become his life’s work: fighting for equality and justice for his people.
In this excellent biography, readers will not only find out about Nelson Mandela’s life and achievements, but they will also get a picture of the world he lived in, and they will come to understand the challenges his faced. The text is broken up by the inclusion of annotated photographs, and there are numerous text boxes that are full of background information.