Grandad Mandela

July 18, 2018 would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. In honor of that date, his youngest daughter, Zindzi, and two of her grandchildren put together a book about Mandela in the format of questions that a child might ask about the man and his years in prison.


Grandad Mandela is a very important story about a part of world history that we cannot forget. However, because it is told as two children asking about their great-grandfather after coming across an old photo of him, the explanations make sense for children of all ages. The idea of teaching a child what apartheid is is challenging, but grandparents are pretty good at taking difficult topics and having them make sense for kids.

The questions are things that kids would ask. Not only why did he go to prison, but did he get to celebrate his birthday in prison?

mandela birthday

Also, as a child it can be very confusing when people don’t get along. Young children are often color blind and society’s thoughts about race and religion don’t come in until they are a bit older. So when Ziwelene asked “why did the white people start making everybody’s lives be sad lives?” it gets to the root of how a child views apartheid.Grandma Zindzi’s answers are simple enough for even young children to understand.

mandela police

“It’s because white people were taught under colonization and apartheid to hate. They were taught that they were better than black people.”

Grandma Zindzi also understands that things have changed and people are trying to work together, so she explains the way the whites in South Africa were taught that it was the way things were meant to be. It is hard to change laws that have been in place for years, but as cultures evolve and realize that some of those laws were wrong, it is important to be able to let the laws evolve as well.

mandela equal

This book was written so that children today could understand the power of the South African people coming together to end apartheid and how Nelson Mandela was the spirit of the movement. One thing that I love is that at the end when they are asking their grandmother if she misses her father, she says that while she misses him, the best way to honor his memory is to volunteer and to help make the world a better, more loving place.

“We volunteer to say we care about everyone, to make them feel happy and not make them feel like they don’t belong anywhere.”

Grandad Mandela is a great way to introduce the topic of who Nelson Mandela was and what apartheid was. It can help children think about race issues in the United States with a little bit of distance and it encourages all of us to be better people and think of those around us.

nfpb18Each Wednesday I try to post nonfiction picture books as part of the challenge set up by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are amazing books available for kids these days. Check the linkups on Alyson’s site for more!

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