Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 10, 2021

Book Giveaway – A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE by Lindsay McDivitt

Lindsay McDivitt has written a new non-fiction picture book, A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE, illustrated by Charly Palmer and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. It is available now. Lindsay has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Lindsay and Charly.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Kirkus Starred Review: “Beautiful, informative, essential.”
School Library Journal Starred Review: “Highly recommended for libraries that need titles about the ongoing global fight against racism.”

As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew.  South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope—hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.

From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world.

BOOK JOURNEY:

I truly had no intent to write about President Nelson Mandela. I was a White woman born in South Africa and raised in America. I’d worked at writing for kids for years, but was still unpublished. I’d never dreamed of writing about a world-famous leader. And I’d never attempted a picture book biography. But Nelson Mandela’s hopeful messages clamored to be shared—messages about the fight against racism and the ability of humans to change.

In 2013 I revisited South Africa with my grown-up kids—after a gap of twenty-five years. That trip was the spark for the long process of writing A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for his Nation. It was published in March 2021 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Over that twenty-five years the country had been transformed into Mandela’s Rainbow Nation. Apartheid was gone. We toured Robben Island—the prison where Nelson Mandela served most of his twenty-seven years. I learned Mandela transformed himself before he transformed the country. While in prison he changed from an angry activist to a leader committed to changing a highly diverse and divided nation. I was astonished to realize that very early his vision was inclusive of his White oppressors.

On returning home to America I read incessantly about Mandela. One burning question—how did he know that White people behaving in such racist ways could change? White people like my ancestors.

Writing A Plan for the People seemed almost involuntary. After several years of reading I put pen to paper. I was a fictional grandmother trying to explain South Africa and racism to a fictional granddaughter as we traveled that country. That was my first ever attempt at a middle-grade novel. (Last attempt also.) Then it was a chapter book.

Next I began writing obliquely about Mandela—in the form of a picture book based on his true friendship with one young, White prison guard, Christo Brand. Mandela actively encouraged his fellow prisoners, all Black activists, to befriend their White guards. Their goal was to change even one person at a time.

I struggled with the scary process of figuring out just what I wanted to write. I became a huge list-maker. Something I now advocate. My early lists included:

  • What I loved in my favorite picture book biographies. (Including those by Jen Bryant, Andrea Davis Pinckney & Maura Kalman.)
  • What other picture book bios about Mandela included, and left out.
  • My favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela.

When finally I began writing about Mandela himself, his own words guided me:

“…as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honorable freedoms of achieving my potential…But then

I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free…”

“It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.

A man who takes away another man’s freedoms is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness…”

A Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela 

Something I learned from author Candace Fleming was hugely helpful—the “morning pages” journaling routine. She shared this at a conference and I was initially resistant—I’m not a fan of journaling. But freehand writing on exactly what your story is “about-about” truly helps get at the heart of it.

Surprisingly, my early attempts at putting pen to paper came into play. A Plan for the People actually begins with Mandela as a grandfatherly figure—to draw young readers in. He loved children.

Prison guard Christo Brand’s transformation and kind actions are also in the picture book bio, although named only in the back matter. (Note to self: Do not toss early writings and musings.)

Then new lists proliferated. I find lists so freeing!

  • Words related to prison. (Think jail, inmate, captive, clank, cold, shackle, warden)
  • Possible scenes to include. (Editors and illustrators want more than the inside of a cell.)
  • Nuggets of high interest to kids. For example, notes written in invisible ink made from milk. And the astonishing gift President Mandela received from a child. (That gave me my ending.)
  • A list of things that might bring in some South African “color.”


Below are a few examples of how I used that last list in the final text for A Plan for the People:

“To the guards, the prisoners looked as lazy as lions in the shade. But they were sharpening skills, preparing and planning, mapping a new future for all South Africans.”

And this…

“The Black prisoners and White guards wove stories for each other, dipped rusks in hot tea, spoke of family problems—the kind of contact not allowed outside prison walls.”

Conference critiques by publishing professionals also informed my slowly evolving work. One by Kathleen Merz at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers eventually resulted in my first publishing contract.

When the time came for working on revisions and back matter with Kathleen, I again consulted my lists. We added a brief history of apartheid and major events related to apartheid. Information on the African National Congress—as Mandela didn’t change South Africa on his own. Details on his prison time. A timeline of major events in Mandela’s life and South Africa’s long journey to democracy.

Our incredibly talented illustrator, Charly Palmer, has an illustrator’s note that includes his own special connection to South Africa. He used a warm, bright palette for his art that, in his words, convey the “Mandela-like spirit of love and forgiveness” he’s experienced in South Africa.

My author’s note might have been the most difficult part of this whole challenging project. I wrestled with it as much as I once wrestled with loving South Africa—after recognizing the lies of its police-state propaganda. But I’m hoping A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for his Nation will find a place in our current day conversations about race, racist policies and the ideas used to justify them. People can change. We can honor Nelson Mandela’s plan for the people.

LINDSEY’S BIO:

Lindsey McDivitt is the author of Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story, and Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story from Sleeping Bear Press and A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation (2021; Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). Christmas Fairies for Ouma releases in 2022 from Familius Books. Find her at www.lindseymcdivitt.com where she reviews picture books with accurate images of aging and older adults on her blog “A is for Aging.”

Lindsey has spent most of her life near the Mississippi River or the Great Lakes. She loves searching the shore for shells or stones, especially agates, and gazing up into tall trees, especially white pines. After eight years exploring marvelous Michigan, she now lives in Minnesota. You can find Lindsey at:

Lindsey’s website  https://www.lindseymcdivitt.com/

Twitter   https://twitter.com/AisforAging

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/mcdivittlindsey/

CHARLY PALMER’S BIO:

Over 30 years and counting, Charly Palmer’s art speaks for itself. Literally, Palmer’s paintbrush is as a Griot. In every painting, he bears witness of African ancestry and contemporary experiences — rhythmic, visual stories that shifts what each viewer believes to see — should one dare to look deeply.

Palmer has an innate awareness of documenting the intricacies of Blackness with such depth, patterns, symbols, and textures that it is easy to forget that he begins with a blank canvas. The ways in which he applies acrylic is somewhat its own aesthetic that transcends where one’s thought begins and ends.

As a Fine Artist who paints upwards of 50 paintings a year, Palmer’s heart’s desire? To be used as a vessel and expression of something higher than himself.

Follow the instructions of the ancestors and you will see greatness happen; there’s intrinsic beauty and strength of Blackness in each body of work. Much of Palmer’s messaging is in the eyes of his people, as if conversing with one another. Conversing with you. From loose sketches and tight lines to blocks of color to nuances of mixed media, his art manifests in visual expressions to the questions, “What came before? What truth must be told?”

Find Charly Palmer at https://www.charlypalmer.com/

Charly on Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/charlylpalmer/

Lindsay, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It is an important story that needs to be shared with every generation. It is always good to be inspired by reading about people from around the world who worked to fight injustice. His story is amazing. Charly did a wonderful job illustrating that story. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Looks like a story you needed to tell. Congratulations. The illustrations look amazing.

    Like

  2. Wow. I so enjoyed reading this blog; the long development process Lindsay went through shows such dedication and has resulted in a wonderful, readable story. The pages of A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE that were shared here, both text and illustrations, moved me so. This is a powerful biography/history book with a message that the world needs more than ever! Thanks to Lindsay and Charly for pouring their creative talents and their souls into this book. It clearly shows, and I wish you both much success.

    Like

  3. Thanks for sharing, Lindsey. Luckily, I already have this beautiful book, so don’t enter me in the draw, Kathy, but I wanted to say how lovely the interview and shared insights are. Brava, and congrats on the starred review from Kirkus!!

    Like

  4. I’ve read this wonderful book and highly recommend it! It’s a touching and inspiring story with stunning artwork.

    Like

  5. I traveled through South Africa shortly after apartheid fell. It was a sobering experience, seeing that 90% of the population didn’t have electricity and how the whites lived behind walls and fences to keep out the problems that their racist system caused. Mandela was the right person to lead his country through truth and reconciliation, but South Africa still struggles to throw off the cloak of oppression today, just like the U.S. I’m not surprised that the topic wouldn’t let you go.

    Like

  6. This book sounds wonderful—a must read. Love the illustrations.

    Like

  7. I learned so much about Mandela from today’s post and can’t wait to read this book and learn more. I enjoyed reading how this author found her heart of the story. I’m an email subscriber and shared: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.hammelef/posts/10222674286019601

    Like

  8. I enjoyed the back story and how hard you worked on this, Lindsay!

    Like

  9. Thank you Lindsey for a heart-felt, honest post about your writing process. This beautiful picture book seems to have found the perfect author and illustrator.

    Like

  10. This is such a beautiful and important book. Picture books can be such long arduous journeys, but I think those that demand so much of us as writers are the best. I loved hearing your journey, Lindsey. And I think one of my favorite pieces is the prison of prejudice. (I subscribe and tweeted.)

    Like

  11. What a stunning interview! Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  12. Oh my gosh, what a beautiful book, Lindsey and Charly! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Thank you for sharing your long journey to creating it, Lindsey, and congratulations.

    Like

  13. Congrats, Lindsay and Charly! Looks like a fantastic and important book.

    Like


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