"In my life, I was the small one.
The skinny one.
The poor one.
Even the shy one.
But I was never the weak one."
So writes Brad Meltzer, the author of I Am Gandhi, one of the books from the New York Times bestselling series.
Literature can entertain us, teach and enlighten us, and if we are lucky, even inspire us. I Am Gandhi is one of those pieces of children's literature that can do all of these things. And might I add that I am not just talking about inspiring our children. As adults, most of us know about Gandhi, but to teach children about him and to help them discover an appreciation for the man gives us the opportunity to appreciate him once again or for the first time.
I grew up hearing and eventually reading about the great Mahatma Gandhi. I have even told my children about his amazing feat of battling the governments of South Africa and India without ever raising a fist or acting in anger. But never did I teach them about how ordinary this extraordinary man was.
That is where this book won me over. Anyone can write a book expounding the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi. How could you not? But to focus on the everyday attributes that some might even dare label as weaknesses, is in fact one of the strengths of I Am Gandhi. You see, we live in a time of super human superheroes. They are often larger than life, as perfect as any mythical god, and as physically strong as a dozen freight trains. That is what many of our children idolize.
I Am Gandhi starts off by introducing Gandhi as a small, shy, and fearful child who was not good at sports or even some school studies. He was born no super human with super powers. He was born ordinarily beautiful, with flaws and fears that many of us and our children can relate to. The book chronicles how this seemingly unexceptional child carried within him an exceptional heart. That heart lead him to be courageous despite his fears and pick himself up and carry on even after setbacks and failures in life. What this small boy lacked in muscle, he made up for in integrity, persistence, dedication, and courage.
His weapon was not a sword. The author tells us that it was Satyagraha (Suht-yuh-gruh-huh) or Truth Force. He used the power of speaking the truth to fight his oppressors. And such a powerful weapon it was, that it brought many changes to India and inspired other leaders around the world like Martin Luther King Jr during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and Nelson Mandela in his fight to end apartheid in South Africa.
In I Am Gandhi, the superhero may not have physical prowess but has an abundance of mental toughness. When Gandhi is imprisoned, it is the strength of his mind that allows him to endure the confines of a jail cell. The overall lesson of the book is that "strength doesn't come from the size of your body. It comes from the size of your heart." That is a lesson, every child should embrace and this is a book that should be on every classroom and home bookshelf in my humble opinion.
Thank you to the Project Manager of Multicultural Children's Book Day, the author, and the publishers of Penguin Young Readers Group for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.