cover image Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela

Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela

Bill Keller, . . Kingfisher, $17.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-7534-5992-8

Keller, executive editor of the New York Times , offers a balanced, thoughtful account of Mandela's political activism and accomplishments and his pivotal role in South Africa's modern history. The book's title is a translation of Mandela's birth name, Rohihlahla, which, both fittingly and ironically, refers to a troublemaker. As bureau chief for the Times in Johannesburg from 1992 to 1995 (he won a Pulitzer Prize for his work there), Keller witnessed Mandela's campaign for president and South Africa's transition from apartheid to granting full citizenship—and voting rights—to black and white South Africans alike. Keller's personal experience and contact with Mandela imbues his often graceful prose with immediacy and offers insight into the leader's personality (“In my time watching him at work, I often marveled at his ability to wear down hostility through endless patience, gentle humor, and charm”). Reprints of 15 pertinent Times articles, four written by Keller, give additional dimension to the biography, although the graphically intense design—packed with dramatic photos, swathes of paint,handprints and images of the African continent—may be somewhat cluttered (color art not seen by PW ). A solid portrait of an awe-inspiring man. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)