I Am Gandhi : Ordinary People Change the World

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
I Am Gandhi : Ordinary People Change the World Book Poster Image
Engaging picture bio of Indian hero, nonviolence pioneer.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

As with other books in the Ordinary People Change the World series, I Am Gandhi is packed with historic information. Kids learn about a person and events decades in the past but profoundly important to this day. Especially important is the concept of nonviolence as a tool for fighting injustice, and learning how Gandhi used it in South Africa and India.

Positive Messages

Various stories show Gandhi's principles in action. Many positive messages about helping each other, finding ways other than violence to resolve differences, and transforming yourself as part of transforming the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gandhi learns strength, compassion, and wisdom from the world around him, and also from his own failures -- like the time he tries his first court case and faints. He refuses to meet violence with violence and finds creative, powerful ways to help others.

Violence & Scariness

Nonviolence is a strong theme: In several scenes, Gandhi and his followers are beaten, imprisoned, and physically abused, even killed (illustrations show no gore), but refuse to respond in kind.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Gandhi (part of the Ordinary People Change the World picture book series by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos) is a lively introduction to the life, times, and nonviolent principles of India's revered national hero, Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi. It offers many strong positive messages about helping each other, doing what's right, living simply, and sharing your principles by your own example. Century-old events in a land far away  -- and how to right wrongs without resorting to violence -- resonate with issues and problems of today's world. As little cartoon-figure Gandhi makes his way through moments of struggle and moments of inspiration, kids learn a lot about what seemed to need changing in Gandhi's world and how, despite being small, weak, shy, and discriminated against, he changed the course of history and made many people's lives better.

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What's the story?

In I AM GANDHI, the title character takes readers from his boyhood in India, where he first started to notice people treating one another unkindly and unjustly, to England, where his career as a lawyer flops after he faints in court, and to South Africa, where he rallies his fellow Indians to fight the discrimination they face -- without violence. When he returns to India, he faces even bigger challenges, as the country's British rulers treat the locals terribly (and the locals aren't always that nice to one another, either).

Is it any good?

Indian civil rights leader and nonviolence pioneer Mohandas Gandhi comes to life in this cartoon history bio of a man whose life and example still inspire people and influence events worldwide. Young readers and listeners may find some historic events very alien to their own experience, such as India's historic discrimination against "untouchables" and the British oppressing Indians by forcing them to buy salt from their overlords. But the larger issues of helping others, transforming yourself, and never resorting to violence shine through. Stealing the show is the cartoon kid who keeps cheerleading about "Truth Force!" and its superpowers. While much of I Am Gandhi will go over the heads of the pre-reading audience, it's a good introduction to an important historical figure, and it rewards repeat visits over time.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of nonviolence as a way to resolve problems as shown in I Am Gandhi. Do you think it's better to treat people the same way they treat you, or to behave kindly in hopes of showing them a better way to act?

  • Can you think of an example in your own life where someone was in trouble and others tried to help and make things right? What happened?

  • Have you read other books in the Ordinary People Change the World series? Do you have any favorites? How does I Am Gandhi compare?

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