Grandad Mandela

Written by: Zazi, Ziwalene & Zindzi Mandela

Illustrated by: Sean Qualls

For ages: 4-10 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered:  Historical Figures, History, Activism, Nelson Mandela, Apartheid, Social Change, Imprisonment, Black Culture & Identity, South Africa.


I am shocked that I haven’t shared this book on Instagram yet, I assumed I shared it actual years ago. Well, today we remedy this and make a #sweetsandsocialjustice post about it as well. I made strawberry shortcake (one of my absolute favorites) and experimented with the shortcake recipe itself. I’m still not super happy with it, which just means I’ll have to tweak it and bake more of them (oh nooooo…..).

Grandad Mandela is written from the perspective of Nelson Mandela’s great-grandkids asking questions about their great-grandfather Mandela to their grandmother Zindzi. He went to jail when his daughter was just a toddler, for fighting against apartheid. Details of life during apartheid are described, such as being forced to live apart from white people and endure police brutality (something that United States history has in common and marginalized populations still experience today). Because of this, Zindzi and her siblings couldn’t go to school and were sent to boarding school in Swaziland to receive education instead. Zindzi goes through their family tribal history, and how that lifestyle shaped Grandad Mandela to be the man he was. He grew up and studied law, wanting to bring justice to his home country of South Africa. When imprisoned, the government hoped he would give up his activist lifestyle. Instead, the opposite happened and people all over the world began to join the fight to end apartheid. When Mandela was finally released, thousands of people celebrated his release by dancing in the streets! Mandela became the president of South Africa and continued to fight for justice. Zindzi tells her grandchildren that she honors his memory by volunteering and helping others.

This book is a unique narrative frame, with gorgeous artwork! It honors the social-justice legend of Nelson Mandela and links his past work to current day. Such an important part of global history is immortalized with this conversation between family members, and this book should be in every classroom library.

About the Author & the Illustrator:


Ambassador Zindzi Mandela is a South African freedom fighter, diplomat, writer, speaker, cultural advocate and favorite Grandma. She is the last born child of Mrs Winnie Madikizela- Mandela and President Nelson Mandela, and was only 18 months old when her father went to prison. In 1985, when she was 25 years old, she read Nelson Mandela’s famous refusal to accept the offer of conditional release from President P. W. Botha to a packed football stadium in Soweto, saying his words, ‘I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.’ The Ambassador lives in Copenhagen where she serves as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark.

Zazi Mandela (8) and Ziwelene Mandela (6) are the great-grandchildren of Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and President Nelson Mandela. Zazi is a storyteller and an aspiring performer. Ziwelene is a storyteller and a maverick.


Sean Qualls finds inspiration everywhere. Growing up in the 70’s in central New Jersey, his family didn’t have much money for art supplies but he made the best of what was available; discarded paper, blank end pages from old books and sometimes walls much to his mother’s chagrin. Some of his earliest inspirations were the crayons and coloring books his mom would buy for him and his older sister, drawing and handwriting competitions with classmates and an illustrated bible he received for Christmas in the 2nd grade. He moved to Brooklyn to attend art school at Pratt Institute. After only a year and a half he dropped out but continued to educate himself while working full-time at the Brooklyn Museum. Sean’s books and illustrations often explore history and non-fiction subjects. His fine art focuses on race & identity and the intersection of history & mythology, ultimately examining how we create our own identities or allow them to be scripted to for us.  Together his paintings and illustrations reveal  simultaneously unique and universal moments that reveal the human spirit. Sean’s most recent books include Why Am I Me?The Case for Loving and Two Friends all of which he illustrated with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko. He has also illustrated Emmanuel’s Dream (Schneider Award recipient) written by Laurie Ann Thompson, Giant Steps to Change the World written by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor) written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife and their two children.

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