A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation
Written by: Lindsey McDivitt
Illustrated by: Charly Palmer
Ages : 7 years and over.
Publisher: : Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (March 30, 2021)
Theme: racism, hope, kindness
Opening Lines: President Nelson Mandela had white hair, kind eyes, and a wide, warm smile. But many times over his long life he’d had no reason to smile. Many times his eyes had glittered with anger at injustice.
Synopsis: (from Amazon) As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew. South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope—hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.
From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world.
This book about President Mandela attempts to convey these messages:
· The ability of people to turn away from fear, hate and learned racism
· The meaning of true democracy and equality
· The beauty of a racially diverse population
· Mandela’s messages of the power of love and the importance of education
· The history of apartheid in South Africa
Why I like it: This is a beautifully powerful book lyrically written with heart. Mandela’s struggles, hope, kindness, and calm confident leadership is shown throughout both in text and in Charly Palmer’s lavish, vibrant, and deep illustrations. This is an inspiring book chock-full of information which is easy for youngsters to understand and a must have in all libraries which evokes conversation around racism back then and now. The book has an extensive author and illustrator’s notes along with a brief history of apartheid, and major events related to apartheid in south Africa. There is also The ANC Struggle against Apartheid and Mandela’s prison time. Also there is a Timeline of major events in Nelson Mandela’s life, websites and videos to explore, and more books about Mandela. Lindsey has been thorough in her research and her dedication is obvious.
I was very interested in this book as the 15th August 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of the first rugby Test of the Springboks’ tour of New Zealand in Christchurch and the protests against the Springboks at that time reverberated around the world – delivering a savage psychological blow to South Africa’s white regime. It is believed Nelson Mandela spending his 18th year in jail on Robben Island smiled when he heard of the protests in such a small country as New Zealand. See here a clip in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/15/rugby-racism-and-the-battle-for-the-soul-of-aotearoa-new-zealand
I was also intrigued as to how Lindsey went about writing Mandela’s story. Why she wrote it the way she did and what she hoped people would learn or come to understand about Mandela. Here is what she had to say…
When reading extensively about President Mandela’s twenty-seven years in prison I was struck by how much he loved and missed children. His own were very young when he went to prison. I imagined how surprised young readers would be to hear tales of his life from a man who looked like a kindly grandfather. I think even adult readers will be amazed that Nelson Mandela did not show anger or bitterness when they learn all he endured.
I really wanted to begin with Mandela the President in order to just touch on his younger years. This was a way to focus more on his years in prison when he purposely made himself into the statesman South Africa needed so desperately. The fact that he never gave up, educated himself behind bars and even sought to change his White prison guards was astonishing.
I love the touches of emotion that are threaded into your sentences Lindsey. Such as…. “He vowed to strike down the laws of apartheid…” and “He ached to see his wife and five children…. twenty-one years would crawl by before he was allowed to even touch her hand.” Wow, that moved me. Did you immediately come up with this paragraph or did it take many drafts?
Thank you Diane! Those lines definitely required many rewrites! It’s my practice to focus first on what I want to include and then circle all my boring verbs. I strive to amp them up along with cutting, cutting, cutting words before I ever submit to editors. Most of my revisions with my editor at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers actually involved adding a bit of information and writing the back matter. This was my staid boring text initially.
“He badly missed his wife Winnie and his five children. His daughter Zindzi was a tiny girl when her father went to prison. She was not allowed to visit until she was 16 years old.
His first year on Robben Island, Mr. Mandela was allowed one visitor, one time—his wife Winnie. Even on visits a wall kept them apart, and it was 21 years until he could touch Winnie’s hand.”
I also asked Lindsey how she started her story. Often with the first paragraph of what you initially had down, ends up being nothing like what is in the book so I wondered if she had a copy of what her very first paragraph looked like. It would be fun to show the earlier pages as that is what seems to be the hardest for writers to get just right.
It’s very true Diane; we often end up with a beginning far different from our original. But with A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation you will actually find much of the final version of my first page here in my first draft. It was a picture book with a working title of “Grandfather Mandela.”
(Lindsey’s first page 1st draft)
“I’m guessing you’ve heard of Nelson Mandela.
The first President of South Africa elected by voters of all races.
The courageous man who fought for the freedom of his fellow black South Africans.
The man jailed for 27 years because the white government feared he and his friends would take over the country.
Perhaps you can picture his kind eyes, white hair and wide warm smile. He looked a bit like a kindly grandfather.
If you’d met him, he would have probably sat you down on his knee. He loved children. He might have told you stories.
Stories about growing up in the Xhosa village of Qunu…about…and about….
Most likely you would not have heard about those long, long years in prison. President Mandela wouldn’t want to make you sad.
But it was those long prison years that made him into just the leader a new South Africa needed.”
Thank you Lindsey for allowing me to showcase your new book A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE – Nelson Mandela’s Hope for his Nation.
You will find Lindsey McDivitt here on her blog… https://www.lindseymcdivitt.com/
Talented artist Charly L. Palmer whose work recently graced the cover of Timemagazine (July 2020). His website…. https://www.charlypalmer.com/ and https://www.culturetype.com/2020/06/30/charly-palmer-is-latest-artist-tapped-to-illustrate-cover-of-time-magazine-providing-image-for-america-must-change-issue/
Lindsey McDivitt: Picture books Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story (2018) and Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story (2020) were published by Sleeping Bear Press. In an effort to combat ageism, Lindsey showcases picture books with accurate, diverse images of aging and older adults on her website and reviews them on her blog at “A is for Aging.” Her first career working with survivors of stroke helped her to realize the importance of stories to highlight hidden strengths for kids.
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