by Adrienne Wright
A short, potent, three-part graphic novel begins with “Hector,” introducing a 12-year-old Black South African Hector Zolile Pieterson, living in Soweto in 1976. Hector likes playing soccer with friends and often runs errands for his mother. The morning of June 16 he heads to school and gets caught between demonstrating Black high school students and the white police. His older sister, alarmed to see Hector, yells for him to go home. “Bang!” “Antoinette” begins with Hector’s older sister, Antoinette Sithole, that morning. She knows about the planned demonstration to protest government changes to their curriculum that would require more classes be taught in Afrikaans and fewer in their native languages, but doesn’t expect to see Hector there. “Bang! … My brother!” “Sam” introduces Sam Nzima, a Black photographer covering the demonstration. The police confiscate Sam’s film, but one roll remains successfully hidden. On it is a photo of grief and horror, reproduced here in agonizing clarity: Hector’s body cradled in the arms of a teenage boy as Antoinette runs alongside. An afterward from the white South African author, who interviewed Hector’s family and Nzima for this account, notes that Hector was not the only one to die during the historic protest on June 16, 1976, but Sam’s photo became “a powerful symbol, opening the world’s eyes to the racism and violence of apartheid and provoking change in South Africa.” (Age 11 and older)
CCBC Choices 2020. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020. Used with permission.
A Junior Library Guild Selection!
On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson, an ordinary boy, lost his life after getting caught up in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. Black South African students were marching against a new law requiring that they be taught half of their subjects in Afrikaans, the language of the White government. The story’s events unfold from the perspectives of Hector, his sister, and the photographer who captured their photo in the chaos. This book can serve as a pertinent tool for adults discussing global history and race relations with children. Its graphic novel style and mixed media art portray the vibrancy and grit of Hector’s daily life and untimely death.
Heartbreaking yet relevant, this powerful story gives voice to an ordinary boy and sheds light on events that helped lead to the end of apartheid.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.