Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song

illus. by Charly Palmer. 48p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. photos. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374303013.
Gr 2–5—Miriam Makeba was a South African singer who used her talent to challenge apartheid and to encourage South Africans to rail against injustice. Early in her career, Makeba decided to sing in Setswana, IsiXhosa, and IsiZulu precisely because the white ruling class did not speak those languages. A sense of rising tension is unmistakable throughout the text, and each of Makeba's hopeful successes is followed by further struggle, finally culminating in Nelson Mandela's release from prison and the slow end of apartheid in South Africa. Debut illustrator Palmer's painterly spreads shine in rich colors and bold brushstrokes, capturing the passion of Makeba mid-song. In other spreads, scenes of an armed white police officer demanding the transit pass of a black man who has stepped outside of his neighborhood boundary, and a lone child who has survived the massacre of school children at Soweto, all speak acutely to the landscape of apartheid that shaped Mama Africa's career. Erksine spent some of her childhood living in apartheid South Africa, and she shares her own experiences and connection to Makeba's music at length in the back matter.
VERDICT A welcome addition to picture book biography collections.

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