Nelson Mandela

Before he was the first Black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) was a boy with a traditional Thembu upbringing. He went on to study law and become involved with African nationalist politics. The government had established an apartheid (a system of segregation that privileged white people), and Mandela worked to overthrow this system. He was arrested, accused of treason, and thrown in jail. When he was released, Mandela negotiated an end to the apartheid and was elected president. Though he was a controversial figure at the time, he is now seen as an iconic advocate for democracy and social justice. Inspiring and informational, Nelson Mandela tells the story of one of the greatest politicians and revolutionaries. It includes a timeline, glossary, and index.

Sugar Town Queens

When Amandla wakes up on her fifteenth birthday, she knows it’s going to be one of her mother’s difficult days. Her mother has had another vision. This one involves Amandla wearing a bedsheet loosely stitched as a dress. An outfit, her mother says, is certain to bring Amandla’s father back home, as if he were the prince and this was the fairytale ending their family was destined for. But in truth, Amandla’s father has long been gone–since before Amandla was born–and even her mother’s memory of him is hazy. In fact, many of her mother’s memories from before Amandla was born are hazy. It’s just one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give them strange looks–that and the fact her mother is white and Amandla is Black.
When Amandla finds a mysterious address in the bottom of her mother’s handbag along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. What she discovers will change the shape and size of her family forever. But with her best friends at her side, Amandla is ready to take on family secrets and the devil himself. These Sugar Town queens are ready to take over the world to expose the hard truths of their lives.

Small Mercies

Mercy lives in modern-day Pietermaritzburg, South Africa with her eccentric foster aunts―two elderly sisters so poor, they can only afford one lightbulb. A nasty housing developer is eying their house. And that same house suddenly starts falling apart―just as Aunt Flora starts falling apart. She’s forgetting words, names, and even how to behave in public. Mercy tries to keep her head down at school so nobody notices her. But when a classmate frames her for stealing the school’s raffle money, Mercy’s teachers decide to take a closer look at her home life.

Small Mercies has been discussed in My Take/Your Take for December 2020.

King Shaka

Shaka has fought his brother to the death for rulership of the Zulu. Now king of the southern chiefdoms, Shaka seeks to uplift his people, consolidate alliances, and expand the reach of his power. But challenges both external and internal threaten his rule. A rogue military unit exacts revenge on its enemies. Land-hungry Europeans arrive and ingratiate themselves with Shaka, even while plotting their own path to power. And closer to home, Shaka’s own brothers conspire in secret.

Hector; a boy, a protest, and the photograph that changed apartheid

On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson, an ordinary boy, lost his life after getting caught up in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. Black South African students were marching against a new law requiring that they be taught half of their subjects in Afrikaans, the language of the White government. The story’s events unfold from the perspectives of Hector, his sister, and the photographer who captured their photo in the chaos. This book can serve as a pertinent tool for adults discussing global history and race relations with children. Its graphic novel style and mixed media art portray the vibrancy and grit of Hector’s daily life and untimely death. Heartbreaking yet relevant, this powerful story gives voice to an ordinary boy and sheds light on events that helped lead to the end of apartheid.

Grandad Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s two great-grandchildren ask their grandmother, Mandela’s youngest daughter, 15 questions about their grandad – the global icon of peace and forgiveness who spent 27 years in prison. They learn that he was a freedom fighter who put down his weapons for the sake of peace, and who then became the President of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, and realise that they can continue his legacy in the world today. Seen through a child’s perspective, and authored jointly by Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchildren and daughter, this amazing story is told as never before to celebrate what would have been Nelson’s Mandela 100th birthday.

When Morning Comes

Zanele is skipping school and secretly plotting against the apartheid government. The police can’t know. Her mother and sister can’t know. Her best friend Thabo, schoolboy turned gang member, can tell she’s up to something. But he has troubles of his own–a deal gone wrong and some powerful enemies. Across the bridge, in the wealthy white suburbs, Jack plans to spend his last days in Johannesburg burning miles on his beat-up Mustang–until he meets a girl with an unforgettable face from the simmering black township–Soweto. Working in her father’s shop, Meena finds a packet of banned pamphlets. They lead to a mysterious black girl with a secret, a dangerous gangster with an expensive taste in clothes, and an engaging white boy who drives a battered red car. A series of chance meetings changes everything. A chain of events is set in motion–a failed plot, a murdered teacher, and a secret movement of students that has spread across the township. And the students will rise.

It’s Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah, the funny guy who hosts The Daily Show on Comedy Central, shares his remarkable story of growing up in South Africa with a black South African mother and a white European father at a time when it was against the law for a mixed-race child to exist. But he did exist–and from the beginning, the often-misbehaved Trevor used his keen smarts and humor to navigate a harsh life under a racist government. This fascinating memoir blends drama, comedy, and tragedy to depict the day-to-day trials that turned a boy into a young man. In a country where racism barred blacks from social, educational, and economic opportunity, Trevor surmounted staggering obstacles and created a promising future for himself, thanks to his mom’s unwavering love and indomitable will. It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime not only provides a fascinating and honest perspective on South Africa’s racial history, but it will also astound and inspire young readers looking to improve their own lives.