A Plan for the People by Lindsey McDivitt

Cover image.

A Plan for the People by Lindsey McDivitt, illustrated by Charly Palmer (9780802855022)

This picture book biography of the great Nelson Mandela explores his adult life as first an attorney and then a prisoner and then president. Mandela defended people against the unjust White laws of apartheid that drove dark-skinned South Africans into impoverished communities and took away their rights. He joined the African National Congress, helping draft their Freedom Charter. Mandela was a leader in the fight for justice, soon arrested as an activist, tried and sent to Robben Island. Mandela was placed in a small, cold cell and separated from those he loved, allowed just one visitor in his first year and only two letters sent and received. But Mandela and others created ways to communicate and continue to learn. He saw ways to open the hearts of the guards in the prison, learning about their history as well as his own. Along the way, they gained more freedoms in the prison, eventually getting released as international pressure mounted. Mandela was elected President and formed a new multiracial government with new freedoms for everyone.

McDivitt shares in her Author’s Note that she was born in South Africa as a white person. Her background gives her an interesting lens of understanding from which to write a biography of Nelson Mandela. She does so with a real depth, allowing Mandela’s decades in prison to form a lot of the book and also focusing on the injustice of apartheid and its ramifications on its victims. Throughout her prose, she uses vivid imagery from South Africa that help readers better understand the impact and power of Mandela.

Palmer’s art beautifully captures Mandela throughout his adult life. From the days in prison to connecting with fellow prisoners and guards to eventually donning his signature vibrant tunics as President. The illustrations show the injustice of apartheid, the horrors of the prison, and the rise of Mandela as a world leader.

An important look at Mandela’s life and work. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.

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