The Bookworm: A leader like no other; a romance that withstands time

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“Nelson Mandela”

By Kadir Nelson

c. 2103, Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins

$17.99/$19.99 Canada

32 pages

Your mother sent you to your room the other day. You hate that.

You didn’t think you were being naughty but Mama did, and she punished you. You had to sit in your room alone for awhile and you cried, maybe, or pouted because it just wasn’t fair.

Now imagine being locked in a room for years and years and years for no good reason. That’s what happened to a great man in Africa, and in the book “Nelson Mandela” by Kadir Nelson, you’ll read about that man and his life.

Rolihlahla loved to play with his friends, fighting pretend-battles and hunting with slingshots on the grassy hills of Qunu, South Africa. But he couldn’t play forever: Rolihlahla was smart, and smartness like that needed an education. Rolihlahla’s mother knew she would miss him while he was away, and she tried hard not to cry.

At school, Rolihlahla’s teacher refused to say his Xhosa name, so she called him “Nelson.”

As Nelson grew, he attended the finest schools in Johannesburg. He became a lawyer so he could help his poor and powerless African countrymen.

But something else bothered Nelson just as much as poverty: The South African government had a policy that split its citizens into three groups, and it wasn’t fair. They called it apartheid, and Africans hated it.

So Nelson organized rallies and spoke to the people. He was jailed for speaking up, but he never stopped fighting against apartheid. He married and became a father, but he never stopped fighting. He organized rallies and protests, and never stopped fighting. A warrant for his arrest was put out, but Nelson never stopped fighting

Until he was caught, arrested, and imprisoned. He was sent to a small island where he sat in a tiny room every day, eating cold meals and working hard labor. He was there so long that when he got out, his children had all grown up. More importantly, South Africa had ended apartheid.

Finally, after almost 28 years, Nelson Mandela was set free. He was elected as South Africa’s new leader. And the people celebrated.

You always want to give your child a good sense of history, whether it’s in the past or in the making. “Nelson Mandela” is a good book for both.

Author Kadir Nelson gives kids just the right amount of information here; he’s honest in telling what happened, without being scary. Curious kids will appreciate that this book is made kid-friendlier with a two-page section at the end that could help answer lots of questions. But Kadir Nelson’s words are only half the appeal.

Nelson is also the illustrator here, and his paintings from the magnificent cover to every page inside are addictive. It’s the artwork that makes this a book you’ll want to browse, whether your children are around or not.

Kids ages 4-7 will love this story, and I think older gradeschoolers will appreciate it, too. If your child needs a little time out for reading, “Nelson Mandela” is a book you should make room for.

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“Queen of the Air”

By Dean Jensen

c. 2013, Crown

$26/$31 Canada

336 pages

The bar was all of an inch in diameter, but it was perfect. You only needed to grab it and hang on, so it didn’t have to be very big. It just had to hold your weight as you swung hand-over-hand, hung upside down, and performed monkeyshines on the monkey bars when you were a kid.

It was so easy then. Those same moves look easy now, especially when done by a professional. But as you’ll see in the new book “Queen of the Air” by Dean Jensen, what’s on the trapeze isn’t what’ll keep you hanging.

Alfredo Codona didn’t believe in love at first sight until he saw Leitzel.

He was just 16 years old, a relatively minor trapeze artist and soon-to-be heartthrob. She was eighteen, stunningly beautiful, a “darling with circus audiences everywhere ... ” Smitten, he pursued her with single-mindedness but the Queen of the Air had her career to think about, and she ended the short romance.

Born to an unwed teenager in 1891, Leitzel definitely had circus blood in her veins: Her father had owned a traveling troupe; her grandmother and aunts were all performers and her mother was a trapeze sensation.

It didn’t take long for Leitzel to upstage her.

Alfredo was the long-awaited son of Edward Codona, owner of a traveling circus. Born in Mexico, Alfredo spent most of his youth watching his sister, Victoria, receive tutoring on the high wire. It was her prowess that got him to Chicago. It was she who saw his heart break when Leitzel said their romance was over.

And so, in 1909, Leitzel went her way and Alfredo went his.

She married, divorced, and married again but always had lovers on the side, powerful men who visited her tent after her performances. Her fame grew, and she made “Mister John” Ringling a lot of money.

On the trapeze, the grown-up Alfredo “had no peers.” His fame, too, was growing and he had his sights set on a feat that everyone said was impossible. He married a fellow troupe member, but he never forgot his first love.

And then, 18 years after their last kiss, Alfred Codona found himself working beneath the same roof as his beloved Leitzel

So you say you love a good romance filled with drama. Add 1920s intrigue, period settings, elephants, and a dash of OMG, and you’ve got “Queen of the Air.”

Author Dean Jensen, in fact, makes Leitzel and Alfredo’s story seem more like a novel, with rich settings and good character shaping. But it’s no novel, and in his afterword, Jensen explains how he researched this “epic” story. Long before you get that far, though, you’ll be treated to a few hours of stupendous feats under the Big Top, and back to an innocent time that wasn’t so innocent after all.

I could barely tear myself away from this book, and I think you’ll love it, too. For anyone who knows that stardust can be a tarnished and magic is an illusion, “Queen of the Air” absolutely soars.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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