cover image Mandela


Floyd Cooper. Philomel Books, $16.99 (34pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22942-8

Cooper's (Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes) poetic portrait of Nelson Mandela emphasizes the leader's lifelong commitment to ""stand[ing] firm for what he believed was fair and right."" Appropriately for his audience, the author focuses more closely on Mandela's boyhood and schooling than on his adulthood as an anti-apartheid activist or his ascension to the presidency of South Africa. Lyrically linking Mandela's Thembu heritage with his education in modern subjects, Cooper describes the young Mandela's relationship to Thembu elders, such as Old Chief Joyi, ""[who] with his wrinkled blue-black skin and dry, dusty voice, had lived and seen much from the days of forever before."" This dextrous attention to Thembu traditions paves the way to a stronger appreciation of the adult Mandela's commitment to freedom for all of South Africa's peoples. Striking an appealing balance between the representational and the symbolic, Cooper's intentionally grainy oil washes present impressive likenesses of Mandela throughout the stages of his life. Skillful design accommodates a lengthy text by setting it in relatively small type and superimposing it over sweeping, two-page spreads. A forceful, credible picture of a strong and deeply devoted statesman. Ages 5-10. (Sept.)