Saturday, March 28, 2009

REVIEW: After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien

After Ghandi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien. Published 2009 by Charlesbridge Books. Nonfiction. Biography. Young Adult.

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien, profiles sixteen world leaders who practiced nonviolent resistance to various political regimes in the twentieth and early twenty-first century, beginning with Mohandas Ghandi in 1908 Johannesburg, South Africa, up to protests against the Iraq War in America. It is aimed at 9-12 year old children and is illustrated with black and white pastel artwork.

Authors Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien have selected a pantheon of leaders from all over the globe- the reader goes from South Africa to Vietnam, to Alabama, Belfast, Prague, Beijing and more. There are names likely to be familiar to many readers, such as Muhammad Ali, profiled for his protests against the Vietnam War, and Desmond Tutu, the South African priest, and names likely new to many readers, such as Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi and Charles Perkins of the Australian Aboriginal Rights Movement. Nelson Mandela is profiled as much for his nonviolent resistance to his prison conditions as for his anti-apartheid activism, which, the authors acknowledge, wasn't always exactly non-violent in nature. They provide a brief biographical sketch of each leader and discuss their activities in terms of what each leader gleaned from Gandhi's teachings. For example, they discuss how Cesar Chavez employed the hunger strike to help gain better working conditions for migrant laborers. This analysis helps build a picture of activists of different stripes and working on different issues, learning from each other to build a better world.

The authors use clear, age-appropriate language and an attractive presentation style to communicate with their readers; the illustrations add texture and interest, but I would have liked to see a photograph or two here and there. Since the purpose of the book is to encourage young people to engage in social activism, and the authors are activists themselves (as shown in the Authors' Note at the end), the authors don't even pretend to be objective and that's fine as long as the reader knows what he or she is getting into. The book also contains an annotated bibliography and index to help young readers find source material and reference specific topics in the text.

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance would be a good choice for families and libraries looking to add to their collection of social-justice nonfiction. I'm debating whether or not to include it the collection I manage, mainly because none of the activists profiled are Jewish (the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, for example, would have been a great choice to profile alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks in the fight for racial equality in the United States) but the book would be fine addition to many collections nonetheless.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a good one for kids - they need to know that things can be accomplished without violence.

Candy Schultz said...

Marie, I just received the book today. Thank you so much. I look forward to reading it.

Alyce said...

Marie - I just had to stop by to apologize that you weren't on my awards post this morning. You were on my list, but somehow(probably because I was doing this late last night) I forgot to add your blog to the post. Please accept my humble apologies! I am totally embarrassed that I flubbed this. I have updated my post so that it shows your blog now.

Gavin said...

What a great review. I will add it to the wish list of books for our school library.

Anne Sibley O'Brien said...

Thank you so much for this lovely response to our book, After Gandhi.

Educators might like to know we've just launched a companion website for the book ( with links for each of the profiled people and movements. We're in the process of adding information about people and movements we couldn't fit into the book, so suggestions of names such as Rabbi Heschel are always welcome.

Also, the Charlesbridge website (
offers an activity and discussion guide, author interviews, a trailer, and downloadable posters.

Nonviolent resistance has a long and rich history, with new stories happening every day, so there is always so much more to learn. We're grateful for your help in spreading the word about these inspirational people. They are essential role models for our world today.

Anne Sibley O'Brien

Serena said...

Wow, what a great book for kids. I love this concept. I think this will be on this year's christmas list for the kiddos in my life.

moazzam sheikh said...

Marie, fix the spellings. Gandhi, not Ghandi. Many Indians may take it personally :)
Thanks for the review.

Marie Cloutier said...

Moazzam- Oops! Thank you!!