Mohandas Gandhi was a great leader of the 20th century who worked tirelessly and courageously for Indians’ rights in South Africa and for India’s independence from England. His profound message of nonviolence is very relevant in our complex and changing world today. Gandhi for Kids—His Life and Ideas helps young readers learn about Gandhi’s extraordinary life, and the unique worlds of India, South Africa, and England. They’ll read about early life in India and learn more about integral parts of Gandhi’s life such as his travels, his work as a lawyer, his establishment of many different ashrams, social reform methods, his time in jail, and much more.
Gandhi believed in truth, justice, civil rights, and freedom and he always sought to promote important ideals: be kind to others, seek truth, respect differences, practice nonviolence, and know change is possible. He saw goodness in people and accepted many different religions beyond his Hindu faith.
The book includes many historic images, a time line, informative sidebars, and a helpful resource section. In addition, 21 activities, such as design a vegetarian menu for a day, practice anti-consumerism, and make a meditation mat, are woven into the text to give young readers a chance to learn via vibrant hands-on experiences. In India, Gandhi is known as Father of the Nation, and his inspiring message of nonviolence lives on. Publication: Fall 2016.
Gandhi for Kids—His Life and Ideas is published by Chicago Review Press. For more information check out: Ellen Mahoney’s Gandhi for Kids makes the leader’s ideas relevant for today’s kids.
Learning about Gandhi’s rich and complex life wasn’t easy. I first watched the Gandhi film again, which reminded me of key elements of his life. I also found the film somewhat hard to follow in terms of locations. Was Gandhi in India, England, or South Africa? I realized I needed to write the book so it was clear for readers. After feeling inspired from watching the film, I then read two key books: Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, and Arun Gandhi’s book, Kasturba, a Life. These books gave me an important background for Gandhi’s life, even though his autobiography only spans to 1921, when he is in his early 50s. I then read a number of books about South Africa and India, researched many websites, researched nearly 25 books about Gandhi’s life, and watched relevant films, television specials, and YouTubes. I also contacted a number of academics who were of great help, and I researched books about individuals influenced by Gandhi such as Martin Luther King Jr., and Malala Yousafzai.
In the summer of 2014, I visited the M.K. Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence in Rochester, New York. I also had the honor of talking with Gandhi’s fifth grandson, Arun Gandhi, over the phone.
First of all, it’s rewarding to invest a great deal of time getting to know about someone else’s life. And, yes, there were surprises. I guess my main “surprise” was realizing that a shy, tongue-tied young boy could become such a prominent, outspoken and courageous world leader. I was also amazed by Gandhi’s willingness to travel to new places, which meant adapting to new cultures, and at times, being subject to horrifying discrimination. I enjoyed reading about Gandhi’s eclectic eating and health habits, which are described in Gandhi for Kids.
In addition, I was impressed at how Gandhi had a natural charisma and ability to befriend all sorts of people, even people who attacked him, who were willing to follow in his footsteps. And, even though Gandhi experienced war firsthand, and even though he was harassed, humiliated, beaten, and imprisoned, he continued to work toward peace. Now that’s remarkable.
Through his spinning, Gandhi reminded Indians of their rich heritage of creating beautiful homespun “khadi” fabrics. Spinning cotton was an age-old tradition that changed with the Industrial Revolution. Machinery took over much of the Indian handiwork and craftsmanship of creating thread from cottonseeds and weaving it into fabric. At one point, Indians were exporting cotton to England at low prices, and then buying back high-priced cotton clothes from England. Gandhi wanted Indians to regain strength and dignity through self-reliance and local production by “taking matters into their own hands” through spinning their own thread and making their own clothes.
The spinning wheel, or “charkha,” became a powerful symbol of Indian independence and freedom and was represented on the flag of India at one point. Today the flag of India features 24 spokes of the “Ashoka Chakra,” the wheel of the law, signifying many qualities such as love, courage, patience, and peacefulness.