Madiba through the eyes of children



[Image]The Children’s Mandela offers a unique
perception of the former South
African president.

[Image]Author Tyne Doyle and publisher Iain
Bryant at the book launch.
(Images: Future by Design)

Iain Bryant
CE, Future by Design
+27 83 445 1111

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Children possess a perspective of the world that can be more profound than those of adults. This is certainly true in The Children’s Mandela, a glossy coffee-table book that collects children’s anecdotes about former president Nelson Mandela.

According to Iain Bryant, CE of publishing company Future by Design, the idea of compiling children’s thoughts came about just before Mandela’s 80th birthday, 13 years ago.

The author, Tyne Doyle, was conducting an advertising campaign during which she asked children a series of questions about a particular fuel company.

Doyle was astonished by the answers and wondered what children would think of someone like Nelson Mandela.

“She visited various schools asking children, aged between six and 12, 25 questions and got some amazing answers,” said Bryant.

Doyle chose 1 300 of the best answers out of a possible 40 000. Accompanying the text are 250 pictures created by some of the pupils who were quoted in the book.

The Childrens Mandela is Doyle’s first foray into writing. The Johannesburg-born copywriter has won numerous awards in the local and international advertising industry, and has also been a finalist at the London International Advertising Awards.

The Children’s Mandela is available at all leading booksellers at R345 (US$48) each and to higher volume corporate buyers at R260 ($36).

SA’s future leaders share their thoughts

Bryant said that though the book has insights by children, it is targeted at the adult reader.

He added the book will not only provide the reader with a unique perception of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate but also a glimpse into the minds of the future leaders of South Africa.

“Children are conscious about a lot of things,” said Bryant. “Adults underestimate how much children know and take to heart. It is not just one child who knows about things but a whole lot of them. We should not treat them like children. They are like little adults.”

He said the book subtly reveals the impact of the former president’s moral conviction on South Africans.

Bryant further stated that instilling a strong moral foundation in children at home is not enough and instead everyone, including government and business, should contribute to a moral society.

Children’s minds simple yet profound

Simple questions such as “What was Madiba like when he was your age?” “Why did he go to jail?” and “If he was an animal which one would he be?” conjured some of the most original and thoughtful replies.

“When asked what politics was, the answers ranged from ‘People fighting a lot’ to ‘It means driving around in a Mercedes-Benz’ and even ‘I want to cry when I hear that word’,” said Bryant.

Twelve-year-old Kate said politics is about “Fat people who wear expensive suits and argue all day and get paid for it”.

For the question “What did Mandela do on Robben Island?” 11-year-old Bruce said: “He broke rocks but his spirit was never broken, never broken.”

Themes that inadvertently surfaced in the answers were crime, striking, litter and child molestation; topics that Bryant said children should not be exposed to.

“It makes me angry to think children are exposed to these things,” he said.

Reaching bestseller status

In its first month of publication in November 2010, the book sold almost 3 000 copies and it’s currently on its way to becoming a bestseller.

With backing from financial provider Nedbank’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme, Future by Design was able to plan a print run of 7 500 copies for South African readers. However, Bryant believes the international market could demand much more.

The marketers have taken to promoting the book on popular social media websites Facebook and Twitter, with one quote tweeted on the latter website each day.