Title: Long Walk to Freedom
Author: Nelson Mandela
Abridged by: Chris van Wyk
Illustrator: Paddy Bouma
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Concepts: Discrimination, economic role of government, poverty, social justice, racial equality.
Review: Nelson Mandela, born into South Africa's Thembu tribe to a chief who taught him bravery and a wise mother who taught him kindness, learned at an early age that white people ruled the country and controlled virtually all the wealth. Named Rolihlahla, or "troublemaker", Mandela grew up in an extended family that believed in the power of education, and he ultimately completed a bachelor's degree and studied law. True to his moniker, Mandela did stir up plenty of trouble in his decades-long struggle to end South Africa's oppressive system of racial apartheid.
Angry that the country's institutionalized form of discrimination left most black people living in poverty while whites enjoyed a comfortable standard of living, Mandela and his collaborators formed the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, and they organized numerous non-violent protests. When the government responded with violence in 1960, the ANC's strategy became more drastic, leading just a few years later to the arrest of several ANC leaders, including Mandela. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, more than half of which he served at Robben Island under very basic conditions that involved hard labor and virtually no contact with the outside world.
Following growing international pressure, the South African government finally released Mandela from prison in 1990. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and a year later became South Africa's President in the country's first multiracial election. As an abridged version of Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom makes these incredible events accessible to younger readers in an engaging and interesting way. The book's publication coincides nicely with the United Nation's announcement of Mandela Day and the movie industry's release of a major motion picture about Mandela.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children