Hector: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid

Page Street. Jun. 2019. 48p. bibliog. glossary. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781624146916.
Gr 2-5–This is the partly fictionalized story of 12-year-old Hector Pieterson, one of the first children shot and killed by police on June 16, 1976, in Soweto–South Africa’s largest black township–during a student protest march. His death triggered a months-long uprising and the start of a new era in the struggle against apartheid. The story stems from a photograph taken by journalist Sam Nzima, which shows Hector being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu with Hector’s half-sister Antoinette Sithole running alongside them. The story is told from three viewpoints: Hector’s, Sithole’s, and Nzima’s. Hector is seen playing with his younger sister, visiting his grandma, and then caught in the march that protested students having to learn subjects in Afrikaans, seen as “the language of oppression.” More of a chronological news report than a narrative with an emotional arc, the story’s impact is limited. The pastel and collage illustrations depict township life as stripped down to the essentials. The author conducted careful research, including personal interviews with Sithole and Nzima. There is an extensive bibliography, glossary, biographical sketches, and detailed acknowledgments. However, the historical context presented is inadequate for the projected audience. Some of the historical details are inaccurate at worst and misleading at best.
VERDICT The book’s audience is unclear: while a more extended treatment of the subject might be appropriate for older readers, the format and presentation are clearly geared to younger ones. In the hands of a knowledgeable teacher, it could be used to supplement curriculum materials

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