Review: Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

Hector A Boy a Protest and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright (9781624146916)

In South Africa on June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed in what was supposed to be a peaceful student protest. The photograph of him being carried from the scene helped lead to the end of apartheid. The book is told from three perspectives: Hector’s, his older sister, and the photographer who took the image. A new law had gone into effect that all South Africans had to have half of their subjects taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling class. The book shows Hector trying to remember to count in Afrikaans at home. On the fateful day, Hector gets ready for school but when he gets there, the students aren’t attending school but are protesting instead. He gets caught in the protest and then a bullet is fired. After the crowds disperse, Hector is on the ground.

Done in a graphic novel style, this nonfiction book is based on interviews with Hector’s family to see what sort of boy he was. The book shows his playful side and the tough choices his family made to have their children in school. The book also shows touches of what life was like during apartheid with separate entrances for black and white and oppressive laws. The art is done in sandy tones and deftly shows the dominance of apartheid in everyday life.

An important book that speaks to one boy and the way his death helped transform a country. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy. 

Review: Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

nelson mandela

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

In a way that only Kadir Nelson could capture, this book tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s life, imprisonment and how he became the inspiration he is.  This is a very humanizing tale of Mendela, showing his childhood before his father’s death and then his move across South Africa to study under a powerful chief.   Mandela attended school and then got involved in fighting apartheid.  The book follows him as he is jailed the first time and as he rises to be a threat to those in power and goes into hiding.  Mandela returned to South Africa to continue the fight and is then jailed again, doing heavy labor.  After being in prison for over 27 years, Mandela was freed.  His passion for righting the wrongs of apartheid and speaking for equality of all people shines from every page.

Nelson tells the story of Mandela in verse that is factual but also compelling.  He captures the long time spent in prison in a way that children will be able to understand.  Cold meals, thin blankets and beating rocks into dust.  It shows the futility and the harshness with such clarity.  Nelson’s verse also has a great sense of awe for this man and what he has accomplished, that too makes it a very special, honest book.

As always, Nelson’s images are simply wondrous.  Here they seem to shine from within whenever Mandela is part of the image.  As you can see from the cover illustration, there is all of the human inside his art; it radiates from his work.  Shown with detail, interesting perspectives, and ending with a sense of celebration, Nelson’s art is a standout.

This is the story of Nelson Mandela captured fully in a picture book that celebrates all of his accomplishments and what he stands for as a human being.  Beautiful.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Katherine Tegen Books.