Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sisulu's stirring story was inspired by her experience working at a polling booth during South Africa's 1994 democratic elections, the first in which blacks were allowed to vote. Thembi, the ingenuous six-year-old narrator, describes how her 100-year-old great-grandmother, Gogo, makes the long trip to the polls to cast her vote. When she first announces her plans, the family is shocked, because Gogo is too frail to leave the yard. "You want me to die not having voted?" Gogo tells Thembi's anxious parents. The oldest voter in the township, Gogo emerges from the voting booth to the sound of applause and the glare of camera flashes, and the reader, too, will feel the momentousness of the occasion and the characters' jubilation. Debut illustrator Wilson's sketchy pastel illustrations forgo detail in favor of broad, strong strokes, ably conveying the tale's high emotional pitch. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Voting and equality are also themes of The Day Gogo Went to Vote. Children who are removed from the political beginnings of their own country have lived through the historic first democratic elections in South Africa. They will certainly be involved as Thembi tells the story of how her great-grandmother, Gogo, leaves the house for the first time in years to vote in the election. The book stays true to Thembi's perspective while revealing the wonder of a woman, 100 years of age, voting for the first time and the way she's supported by her family, friends, and neighbors.
Children's Literature - Karen Saxe
The year is 1994. A girl goes with her great-grandmother to vote in South Africa's first government election in which they, blacks, are permitted to vote. Though the great-grandmother is house bound, she is determined to vote in what will be her first, and probably last, election. Her great-granddaughter is astounded that this should be so important to her and obviously learns a meaningful lesson by observing her great-grandmother's behavior during this time. This story is told through the eyes of the little girl; it is well told, and will teach young readers about racial animosity, about oppression, and about valuable human freedoms being struggled for around the world, right now. It also relates, though more subtly, the benefits of an inter-generation family.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Set in South Africa in April, 1994, this tender story introduces readers to six-year-old Thembi and her gogo (great-grandmother). When the girl's father comes home with news of a date set for the historic elections, the family is shocked to discover that ailing Gogo is determined to vote, despite everyone's fear that she will not survive the trip. Their neighbors pitch in to make the expedition possible, and Gogo asks Thembi to accompany her. The child's voice is clear and straightforward in its inclusion of details that will hold the attention of youngsters, such as her responsibility for Gogo's "beautiful blue cloth bag" and the ultraviolet machine at the polling booth. The full-page pastel illustrations are powerful, alternating the dark interiors of a Soweto township home with sun-filled outdoor scenes. This is primarily the account of a child's warm relationship with her great-grandmother, and as such makes a worthwhile purchase. But if its context can be introduced, the book becomes a unique, inspiring story about passionate attachment to freedom and hope for democracy.-Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
The poignant story of a black South African gogo, or grandmother, who, after generations of struggle, votes in the historic democratic elections of 1994.
Gogo shocks her granddaughter, who narrates, as well as the rest of the family when she expresses her wish to vote; exiled by the indignities of apartheid and the infirmities of old age ("Mandela is a young man compared to me!"), she hasn't left the house for years. The community rallies around her, and a local businessman sends his car and driver to take her to the polling station. The crowds applaud as she casts her ballot; once home, the narrator joins in the celebratory toyi-toyi (rhythmic dancing) that continues far into the night. Sisulu works information on voting into the narrative without overwhelming the fundamental story; through Gogo's determination, even readers who are unfamiliar with all the facts of South African apartheid will comprehend the significance of this historic event. Rich pastel illustrations illuminate the text, depicting with equal skill the landscapes of the country and the affection between a gogo and her granddaughter. An uplifting book.