Tuesday 10 September 2013

Nelson Mandela - The Authorised Comic review

As a child of the eighties and teen of the nineties, I couldn't fail to know who Nelson Mandela was and what he stood for. Our Student Union at Swansea Uni was in a building called Mandela House and, for anyone with their head in the sand who really didn't have a clue about what was going on in the wider world, The Specials were singing about it on mainstream radio with such a catchy tune that you couldn't help but sing along :

Twenty-one years in captivity
Shoes too small to fit his feet
His body abused but his mind is still free
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
I said free Nelson Mandela
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela

Pleaded the causes at the ANC
Only one there in a large army
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea?
Free Nelson Mandela
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela

On his eventual release after 27 years in captivity, Simple Minds released another classic political song, Mandela Day, and there were huge concerts on the scale of Live Aid that really raised awareness of what was going on in South Africa.

Nevertheless, when I read through the Nelson Mandela Authorised Comic, I realised that there were vast periods of his life that I knew nothing about, most notably his life as a young man and then political activist before being imprisoned.

The book contains 193 pages of comic strip, narrating in great detail the life and times of Nelson Mandela, before, during and after his imprisonment. The style of writing and above all the illustrations will make it accessible and appealing to teens, although some of the political background may be a bit heavy-going for them.

Modern kids who may not know much about Apartheid rule and Mandela's imprisonment will recognise the famous people from the final pages, such as US President Bill Clinton. I would have liked the book to go into a bit more detail about life in South Africa under apartheid and the hardships that black South Africans suffered on a daily basis but overall, it gives a good overview of the period.

The final pages of the book are aimed at teachers, offering lesson plans and photocopiable worksheets. Having shown a photo of Nelson Mandela in class and hearing the pupils confidently tell me that it was Martin Luther King, I'll definitely be doing a project on both of these great civil rights activists some time this year.

When the book arrived for review, Nelson Mandela was critically ill in hospital and I must admit, it seemed a rather cynical time to release a book about his life. A closer look revelead that the book was published back in 2011 though, and is in fact based on a series of eight free comics that were distributed in South Africa by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

star rating : 4/5

Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Cape Town / Johannesburg, South Africa, 2011
ISBN 9781868424771 / ISBN 978-1-86842-477-1
Softcover, 24×28 cm, 204 pages

RRP : £12.50

Available from all good book sellers or direct from Gazelle on 01524 68765, email sales@gazellebooks.co.uk

Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Children's Book review : 8000 Things You should Know

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