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

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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 storys events unfold from the perspectives of Hector, his sister, 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.


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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 storys events unfold from the perspectives of Hector, his sister, 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    Such an important picture book ! I really enjoyed it and didn't realize how much I didn't know about the student protest that took place in South Africa. Apartheid is definitely a topic that I'm learning and this book opened up my eyes to another aspect of it. I'll be looking for more picture books that specifically deal with apartheid in South Africa.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    HECTORoh, wow. This graphic novel blew me away. Hector Zolile Pieterson was a young boy in South Africa who died in a protest in 1976. The story of his life and the shocking photograph of his brutal murder is told in graphic novel format from three perspectives, Hectors, his sisters and the photographer Sams. Belongs in every elementary and middle school library! HECTOR—oh, wow. This graphic novel blew me away. Hector Zolile Pieterson was a young boy in South Africa who died in a protest in 1976. The story of his life and the shocking photograph of his brutal murder is told in graphic novel format from three perspectives, Hector’s, his sister’s and the photographer Sam’s. Belongs in every elementary and middle school library!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Hector: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Adrienne Wright, which tells the tragically short life of Hector Pieterson, who indirectly changed Apartheid. Hector Pieterson was a South African schoolboy who was shot and killed during the Soweto uprising, when police opened fire on students protesting the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans. A news photograph by Sam Nzima of the mortally wounded Pieterson being carried Hector: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Adrienne Wright, which tells the tragically short life of Hector Pieterson, who indirectly changed Apartheid. Hector Pieterson was a South African schoolboy who was shot and killed during the Soweto uprising, when police opened fire on students protesting the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans. A news photograph by Sam Nzima of the mortally wounded Pieterson being carried by another Soweto resident while his sister ran next to them was published around the world. The anniversary of his death is designated Youth Day, when South Africans honor young people and bring attention to their needs. The text is rather simplistic and straightforward. Told in three perspectives, Wright retells the true story of Hector Pieterson – a typical boy, who was killed during a protest. The narrative is also told by his older sister, Antoinette, and the photographer Sam Nzima, who snapped the photograph that would change Apartheid irrevocably. Additional information could be found in the back of the book. The illustrations are wonderfully done and captured the narrative extremely well. The premise of the book is rather straightforward. Prior to the erupting discord and violence, it is an ordinary weekend for Hector Pieterson when he decided to participate in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest against Apartheid, but was killed during the crossfire. Wright’s deliberately paced, highly visual narrative captures a traumatic moment with piercing clarity and doesn’t shy from including the photograph upon which the story is based. All in all, Hector: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid is a wonderful children's book and tribute to the tragically short life of Hector Pieterson, who through his death changed Apartheid.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This book tells a powerful but forgotten story, about the life and death of a young boy that helped to trigger the fight against apartheid in South Africa. It wasn't the first time that the police there had done something wrong, but it may have been the first time that it had been both so public, and so thoroughly witnessed, as the photograph of the results of their actions made the news. The jarring difference between his very normal life and the circumstances around him helped to make this so This book tells a powerful but forgotten story, about the life and death of a young boy that helped to trigger the fight against apartheid in South Africa. It wasn't the first time that the police there had done something wrong, but it may have been the first time that it had been both so public, and so thoroughly witnessed, as the photograph of the results of their actions made the news. The jarring difference between his very normal life and the circumstances around him helped to make this so strong a story, but the circumstances themselves helped to show just how horrible the system in South Africa really was at that time. Apartheid wasn't some age-old system that simply wouldn't go away. It was deliberately implemented in 1948, as other nations were moving to reduce racial discrimination. South Africa insisted on moving in the other direction, and in the 1970s tried to move things even more toward the Dutch-descended white minority. That was the final straw for many, and is the story told in this book. It's not a happy tale, but one that should be of interest, because echoes of discrimination and related evils still exist today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather Johnson

    This was an incredibly powerful book about South African apartheid and the moving photograph capturing Hector Pietersons death that helped to become a catalyst to end apartheid...14 years later. I loved this book, but Im not quite sure which collection to which this book should belong 🤷♀🤷♀🤷♀ This was an incredibly powerful book about South African apartheid and the moving photograph capturing Hector Pieterson’s death that helped to become a catalyst to end apartheid...14 years later. I loved this book, but I’m not quite sure which collection to which this book should belong 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

  6. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    Moving story behind the picture that helped end apartheid in South Africa, told in graphic novel format.

  7. 5 out of 5

    DaNae

    A powerful tool to use when talking about how the media can sway opinion. I do wish the book took the time to show more of the inequity that Apartheid caused. But, perhaps this wasn't intended for a US audience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Darcy

    Emotional, enlightening, heartbreaking. Be aware of the child's sensitivity before recommending it. But, this is an important and true story that children today should know.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim Chaffee

    This book left me speechless. This amazing story is impeccably told through Wrights engaging text and stunning art. Hector, an ordinary boy, is struck down at an historic protest against apartheid in South Africa. Structured with multiple points-of-view, this story is an important read, not to be missed. This book left me speechless. This amazing story is impeccably told through Wright’s engaging text and stunning art. Hector, an ordinary boy, is struck down at an historic protest against apartheid in South Africa. Structured with multiple points-of-view, this story is an important read, not to be missed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vivian Kirkfield

    With simple yet evocative text, Wright connects us to the story of Hector...and in doing so, we become part of that moment in history. They say that books are a window on the world...this is true and, although it is extremely sad that this book is still timely...one would have hoped that the hatred and division between peoples would have disappeared...this story will help open eyes...and hearts. As an educator, I highly recommend this book for all elementary classes! Well written, extensively With simple yet evocative text, Wright connects us to the story of Hector...and in doing so, we become part of that moment in history. They say that books are a window on the world...this is true and, although it is extremely sad that this book is still timely...one would have hoped that the hatred and division between peoples would have disappeared...this story will help open eyes...and hearts. As an educator, I highly recommend this book for all elementary classes! Well written, extensively researched, with heart-stoppingly beautiful illustrations, this is a must-have book for every school, library, and home bookshelves.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Excellent picture book with a very important story. In South Africa, on June 16, 1976, protests broke out all over SA over a policy to force Blacks to take 50 percent of their coursework in school in Afrikaans, the language of the White oppressors in the government. It was a heavy handed attempt to cut off access to learning English, an international language that helped Blacks communicate with the outside world. Blacks were already isolated in suburbs outside of cities which were heavily Excellent picture book with a very important story. In South Africa, on June 16, 1976, protests broke out all over SA over a policy to force Blacks to take 50 percent of their coursework in school in Afrikaans, the language of the White oppressors in the government. It was a heavy handed attempt to cut off access to learning English, an international language that helped Blacks communicate with the outside world. Blacks were already isolated in suburbs outside of cities which were heavily regulated and prevented from coming and going at will. As more international organizations were expressing concern over treatment of minorities cutting off access linguistically and forcing people to speak their language was another way of holding people hostage. This picture book introduces a 12 year old boy, his older sister, and a photojournalist. On this day, June 26, 1976, Blacks protested being forced learning Afrikaans and White SA troops responded. They shot and killed this 12 year old and the sister found him. A photojournalist took a photo of her and another boy carrying him. The troops destroyed most of his film but he hid one roll. That photo was published on the front page of the local newspaper and around the world exposing the government’s cruelty. It sparked boycotts and criticism all over the world and within 20 years, the apartheid government had to stand down. A delicate subject in school and for elementary kids, but a very important one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    In South Africa on June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed in what was supposed to be a peaceful student protest. The photograph of him being carried from the scene helped lead to the end of apartheid. The book is told from three perspectives: Hectors, his older sister, and the photographer who took the image. A new law had gone into effect that all South Africans had to have half of their subjects taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling class. The book shows Hector trying to In South Africa on June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed in what was supposed to be a peaceful student protest. The photograph of him being carried from the scene helped lead to the end of apartheid. The book is told from three perspectives: Hector’s, his older sister, and the photographer who took the image. A new law had gone into effect that all South Africans had to have half of their subjects taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling class. The book shows Hector trying to remember to count in Afrikaans at home. On the fateful day, Hector gets ready for school but when he gets there, the students aren’t attending school but are protesting instead. He gets caught in the protest and then a bullet is fired. After the crowds disperse, Hector is on the ground. Done in a graphic novel style, this nonfiction book is based on interviews with Hector’s family to see what sort of boy he was. The book shows his playful side and the tough choices his family made to have their children in school. The book also shows touches of what life was like during apartheid with separate entrances for black and white and oppressive laws. The art is done in sandy tones and deftly shows the dominance of apartheid in everyday life. An important book that speaks to one boy and the way his death helped transform a country. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Zan Porter

    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 inAfrikaans, 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 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 inAfrikaans, 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shakera

    Hector was an normal child, doing normal child things when he became caught up in something much bigger than him. By the end of the day, the world would know his name and his death would change the political and social landscape of what we now know as apartheid in South Africa. My personal opinion is that more books should be written to uncover a sometimes hidden past. Warning: this book contains the actual picture of Hector's body being carried by a stranger. Another child to be exact. The Hector was an normal child, doing normal child things when he became caught up in something much bigger than him. By the end of the day, the world would know his name and his death would change the political and social landscape of what we now know as apartheid in South Africa. My personal opinion is that more books should be written to uncover a sometimes hidden past. Warning: this book contains the actual picture of Hector's body being carried by a stranger. Another child to be exact. The first reaction is to look away or protect the young reader from it. After all, it is a children's book. But I challenge you to really look and explain this part of history to your children.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Buckley

    Excellent book about a young boy and a student protest that played a large role in the apartheid in South Africa. This was a compelling and emotional story told from three perspectives - Hector, his older sister, and the photographer who took the photograph of Hector being carried from the streets. Highly recommended for upper elementary school and up. This is a children's book, but it is not for the youngest readers out there because of the photograph and subject matter. I could see this being Excellent book about a young boy and a student protest that played a large role in the apartheid in South Africa. This was a compelling and emotional story told from three perspectives - Hector, his older sister, and the photographer who took the photograph of Hector being carried from the streets. Highly recommended for upper elementary school and up. This is a children's book, but it is not for the youngest readers out there because of the photograph and subject matter. I could see this being used in a classroom studying the apartheid or the impact of photography and/or protests toward social change.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I'm not an expert on Apartheid or South Africa in general, but I feel like I understand some part of it now that I wasn't aware of before. This story is heartbreaking, and yet important. I was a very impressed with the presentation. I feel like introducing Hector beforehand was essential to making readers feel more deeply about what happened to him. Telling the story from three different points of view was effective as well, since it allowed readers to understand that this event was experienced I'm not an expert on Apartheid or South Africa in general, but I feel like I understand some part of it now that I wasn't aware of before. This story is heartbreaking, and yet important. I was a very impressed with the presentation. I feel like introducing Hector beforehand was essential to making readers feel more deeply about what happened to him. Telling the story from three different points of view was effective as well, since it allowed readers to understand that this event was experienced from several different angles. This book felt important. There was no avoiding that in the reading. Nicely presented and engaging.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mikela

    Wow. What a beautiful tribute to such a tragedy. Adrienne Wright does an amazing job of introducing young readers to Soweto culture in South Africa during the 1970's apartheid oppression. By cleverly using the perspectives of three individuals, we see from multiple angles how the ruling government hurts those most vulnerable. Beautifully illustrated is soft tones to contrast the harshness of oppression, this is a powerful nonfiction book that children can engage with in safe place, yet see the Wow. What a beautiful tribute to such a tragedy. Adrienne Wright does an amazing job of introducing young readers to Soweto culture in South Africa during the 1970's apartheid oppression. By cleverly using the perspectives of three individuals, we see from multiple angles how the ruling government hurts those most vulnerable. Beautifully illustrated is soft tones to contrast the harshness of oppression, this is a powerful nonfiction book that children can engage with in safe place, yet see the realities of an imperfect and unbalanced world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie Kirchner

    This book helped me learn more about this important moment in the history of Apartheid. The week after I read it, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Johannesburg South Africa where this took place. I was able to spend time in the exact area of the protest march and learned more about Hector and how the end of his life impacted the end of Apartheid. Powerful book and Im so glad my friend put it on my radar at the perfect time. This book helped me learn more about this important moment in the history of Apartheid. The week after I read it, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Johannesburg South Africa where this took place. I was able to spend time in the exact area of the protest march and learned more about Hector and how the end of his life impacted the end of Apartheid. Powerful book and I’m so glad my friend put it on my radar at the perfect time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sheri Dillard

    A heartbreaking story about a young boy, Hector, who is growing up in South Africa. He goes to school, plays soccer with his friends, helps out with chores, and is a loving (and well-loved) kid. But one day, Hector is caught up in a peaceful protest that turns deadly, and a photo from that day becomes a symbol that will show the world the racism and violence of apartheid. A powerful story, beautifully told.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Greenley

    Sometimes it's hard to write a review without spoilers, and this is one of them. Don't read on if you want to approach the book without any preconceptions. This picture book for older readers is a powerful one. Centered on a real-life photograph, the story takes readers to South Africa, to a moment in history when an intended peaceful protest took a child's life. Reading the book is an emotional journey.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    What a terrible, yet important story. It is a shame that so many lives were affected because they were innocent bystanders. The only thing that wasn't my favorite was how it kept switching to each person's perspective before telling us the final results. Thankfully, it is a short book, so you weren't kept in suspense for long.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    Hector is the story of a 12-year-old boy whose death from police gunshots during a student protest and a photo seen round the world galvanized the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The book - which includes the photo of Hector - may disturb younger readers, but it is a worthy read for older elementary and middle grades students. Hector is the story of a 12-year-old boy whose death from police gunshots during a student protest – and a photo seen round the world – galvanized the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The book - which includes the photo of Hector - may disturb younger readers, but it is a worthy read for older elementary and middle grades students.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Berman

    The story behind Sam Nzimas famous photograph, taken of a child, Hector, who was shot down in South Africa during a peaceful protest about inequality. Adrienne Wright creates a window into Hectors life, growing up during apartheid. Such a tragic story told in an engaging, powerful manner. The illustrations are beautiful. The story behind Sam Nzima’s famous photograph, taken of a child, Hector, who was shot down in South Africa during a peaceful protest about inequality. Adrienne Wright creates a window into Hector’s life, growing up during apartheid. Such a tragic story told in an engaging, powerful manner. The illustrations are beautiful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Compelling dialogue and illustrations make this almost graphic novel and quick and thought-provoking read. Hector was a young man who got caught up in the anti-apartheid protests on June 16, 1976. A picture of Hector, his sister, and a young man carrying him after he was shot became infamous. The author shares Hector's story and the stories of his sister and the photographer.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Jackson

    I cant say enough about this book. While stunning and utterly important, its also tender and so relatable. Its a story about a boy who liked movies, karate, and helping neighbors for pocket change, and how he lost his life in a protest against apartheid in South Africa. The books graphic novel structure, soft-toned illustrations, and various perspectives are artfully crafted and engaging. I can’t say enough about this book. While stunning and utterly important, it’s also tender and so relatable. It’s a story about a boy who liked movies, karate, and helping neighbors for pocket change, and how he lost his life in a protest against apartheid in South Africa. The book’s graphic novel structure, soft-toned illustrations, and various perspectives are artfully crafted and engaging.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    An important story, no doubt, of a young boy whose murder during an anti-Afrikaans-in-schools protest and the graphic photograph of his body being carried influenced the anti-apartheid movement as a whole. To me, the story style was a little disjointed and was a bit hard to follow (hence the lower starts) but let me also say this story (and others like it) NEED to be told.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is such an important story, and Adrienne Wright did a fabulous job at telling it. The illustrations are rendered well. Nicely paced and written with lots of descriptive narrative. Helpful back matter.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Sutter

    Ms. Wright brings a special boy's life and the appreciation for a single photograph's ability to change the world into full view in this deeply moving book. Her unique storytelling format and delicate illustrations blend together perfectly.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Ward

    This heart-wrenching book tells the story behind a famous photograph that became a symbol of the fight against apartheid. Uniquely told in three overlapping viewpoints, the story ties together the life of one ordinary boy with a national fight for equality.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Powerful and heart-wrenching story about Hector, who was killed in South Africa during apartheid protests in 1976. The info is presented clearly and Wright incorporates comic-style panels further elucidate the material. Important--should be a part of every library collection.

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