From his childhood in the South African countryside to his election as the first black president in South Africa's history, Nelson Mandela's extraordinary life is a story of courage, persistence, hope, and belief.

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From his childhood in the South African countryside to his election as the first black president in South Africa's history, Nelson Mandela's extraordinary life is a story of courage, persistence, hope, and belief.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The African leader's boyhood and education are the focus of this "forceful, credible picture of a strong and deeply devoted statesman," said PW in a starred review. Ages 5-up. (Dec.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-Readers are introduced to the formation and growth of the young Nelson Mandela. Rolihlahla, known to his family as Buti, came from a royal Thembu family and was taught the ways of leadership early in his life. This brief account traces his days as a school boy, where he is assigned the name Nelson; as a college man; and as the first black to open (with his partner) a Johannesburg law office. It touches even more briefly on his work with the ANC, his two marriages and families, and his prison years. The text conveys the timelessness of the African traditions and landscape: "Always, the wind had blown mightily through the valley that cradled his village. Sunsets had forever before kissed the hills..." Most importantly, it sketches the lessons through which Mandela learned to hold fast to his beliefs. Wind is an important image in the narrative, often as a reminder of strength. Cooper's oil paintings are infused with golden light. Elegant composition and subtle shifts in perspective add emotional value to the carefully focused account. The author's obvious reverence for his subject shines through in this thoughtfully crafted, beautiful book.-Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA
Kirkus Reviews
A biography of Nelson Mandela, subtitled "From the Life of the South African Statesman." Cooper (Coming Home, 1994, etc.) sets out a nearly impossible task, and in condensing a 78-year-old life, leaves out descriptions of torture, terror, and murder; of Mandela's wide-ranging and sometimes controversial talks with world leaders after his release from prison; and of—except in the author's note—the Nobel Peace Prize he shared in 1993. This ambitious attempt focuses on where Mandela came from and how his character was formed, his stubbornness and desire to "stand firm" for what he believes. Key events in Mandela's youth are used to illustrate his development; he marries, divorces, and remarries within one sentence; readers get a short lesson on apartheid without being shown the absurdity of the principle of minority rule; the 27 years Mandela spent in prison are treated only briefly.

With stunning paintings of village scenes and reverential treatment of Mandela as determined student and eventual leader, this book will leave readers wanting more; without understanding or knowing about the disturbing violence of the policies Mandela fought, readers won't appreciate him or this tame depiction of his times. The author's note supplies a few crucial biographical details but repeats information and dates.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780780797987
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Age range: 7 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

When Floyd Cooper discovered children's book illustrating, he found a way to complement his career in advertising. An apprentice of Mark English, Mr. Cooper began his freelance career while still a student at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating, he made his way to Missouri, where he secured a position at a greeting card company.

Although Mr. Cooper was established in his position there, he felt somewhat stifled. He lacked the freedom and opportunity for spontaneity that he longed for as an artist and the joy that could be found in doing something that he loved.

Determined to break out of the mundane cycle he found himself in, Mr. Cooper relocated to the East Coast in 1984 to pursue his career further. It was there that he discovered the world of children's book illustrating and was amazed by the opportunities for creativity it afforded. Mr. Cooper was energized. The first book he illustrated, Grandpa's Face, captivated reviewers. Publishers Weekly said of newcomer Floyd Cooper's work, "Cooper, in his first picture book, creates family scenes of extraordinary illumination. He reinforces in the pictures the feelings of warmth and affection that exist between generations."

Illustrating children's books is very important to Mr. Cooper. He says, "I feel children are at the frontline in improving society. This might sound a little heavy, but it's true. I feel children's picture books play a role in counteracting all the violence and other negative images conveyed in the media."

Floyd Cooper resides in New Jersey with his wife, Velma, and their two sons.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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