a riveting new look at Selma…it’s Black History Month

turning 15 on the road to freedom cover imageTurning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, illustrated by P.J. Loughran
published in 2015 by Dial Books

I’ve been anticipating this book for some time, hoping to have my hands on it in time for MLK Day.

I didn’t quite make that deadline, but let me tell you:


It is worth the wait.

I’m highly recommending it, and what better time to read it than during Black History Month in February.

It’s the compelling, first-person account of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest marcher on the historic road from Selma to Montgomery. Her voice is plainspoken, honest, appealing, youthful, and it connects with us magnetically. In the whole, ugly, mess of violence and hatred, this personal narrative helps me care about one, fifteen-year-old girl who is by turns scared, brave, exhausted and determined. 

turning 15 on the road to freedom illustration p j loughran 001

Lynda’s story is about more than the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the days of marching. It’s about her strong, loving family, and her mother who died in selmapart because the white hospital would not treat her. It’s about the courage these Alabama teenagers showed, submitting themselves to taunts, arrests, sweatboxes, and beatings, for the sake of basic civil rights. And it’s also a gut-wrenching look at the events of Bloody Sunday, her terror and pain, the dumbfounding willingness to risk it all again in order to march to Montgomery.

When you are finished, you will have met an extraordinary person.

Lynda Blackmon Lowery

Lynda Blackmon Lowery

The book is illustrated in powerful mixed-media images by P.J. Loughran. Each chapter begins with a two-page spread featuring strong figures, expressive portraits, rich, intense colors, striking settings. It is gorgeous work with a graphic novel feel. Historic photos and more of Loughran’s artwork are scattered throughout the pages, which feature plenty of margin to create a very appealing, reader-friendly look.

Of all the Selma literature out there, I think this is among the finest. Read it aloud with children ages 8 or 9 and up, or give it to independent readers age 11 to adult.  120, well-designed pages.