I have decided to stick with love…books for MLK Day 2018

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems[…] And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.  (Martin Luther King, Jr., from Where do we go from here? )

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
published in 2018 by Scholastic Press
128 pages

The word “requiem” in this title is our cue to this book’s demeanor and purpose. Memorializing, with spiritual, dignified, weightiness, the final days of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, the Pinkneys have crafted an extraordinary, emotional testament to his role as the soul and beacon of the civil rights movement.

In her series of free verse poems, Andrea Pinkney drops in just once, briefly, on King’s birth before whisking us forward to January, 1968 and beginning her steady march towards his assassination on April 4th. Her narrative predominantly features his role in the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis and his last speech on the night before he died, and it packs a resounding emotional punch. Brian Pinkney’s expressionistic artwork likewise speaks of turmoil, strength, vision, with cathedral-like arches and roiling swirls of radiant color streaming though the pages.

An extended metaphor in the text will I think perplex many readers, but it is addressed in the Author’s Note. Back matter includes helpful historical commentary and timelines. This distinguished and deeply affecting book is a superb choice for ages 9 or 10 through adult.

That is My Dream!: A picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream Variation,” illustrated by Daniel Miyares
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade

Daniel Miyares’ artwork in this book is heartachingly beautiful as he interprets Langston Hughes’ poignant longings for life in a sunlit world of freedom and equality.

Imbuing each page with dignity and grace, Miyares spotlights one young boy in a 1950s-era small town who walks first through a day of segregation, then soars into a new day without those painful boundaries. Hughes’ words are rich but spare, leaving Miyares gobs of room to unreel the story/wish through his gorgeous pictures.

I could rave on and on about this one. It’s an exceptionally lovely beckoning towards a better world for ages 3 to Adult.

Martin’s Dream Day, written by Kitty Kelley, photographs by Stanley Tretick
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Archival photographs taken at the March on Washington by photographer Stanley Tretick flood this book with a retro, documentary sensibility that nicely compliments the newsy, journalistic style of Kelley’s text.

She walks us through that day, dropping back to give us a helpful yet not overwhelming background to help convey its significance, the long road civil rights leaders walked towards such a monumental outpouring of support, the dream-come-true moment for Martin Luther King when he was able to address 250,000 peaceful people and lay out his vision for a new day.

Inspirational and informative, this is a great choice for those who might be starting from a point of fuzzy understanding about MLK, the Civil Rights Movement, or The March on Washington, or for those who would like to celebrate that moment once more. Ages 6 or 7 and up.

A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech, written by Shana Corey, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
published in 2017 by NorthSouth Books

In June, 1963, JFK delivered a key civil rights address telling Americans that freedom and equality for all our citizens was a promise whose time had come. “It is a time to act,” he said, not to dilly-dally until some supposedly ideal moment for change in the future.

That speech is the lodestone towards which the narrative of this book arcs as it relates Jack’s life, portrays the atmosphere of the United States in that unique moment of time, and describes the work of civil rights activists, particularly Martin Luther King. In fact, this book and Martin’s Dream Day work well in tandem, showcasing the nation’s movement towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from vantage points primarily of MLK or JFK. A lengthy Author’s Note fills in a great deal of information, and mini bios of persons met in the book are included.

Shana Corey writes superbly engaging text, and Christie’s brilliant illustrations exude strength and vigor. It’s an excellent book that will inform and inspire ages 6 or 7 and up.

Let the Children March, written by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison
published in 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Wow. This book made my heart swell with emotion over the courage, determination, and fierce hope found in the children of Birmingham, Alabama during the Children’s Crusade of 1963.

When the grown-ups of Birmingham hesitated to protest segregation, worried over losing their jobs as breadwinners for their families, it was teens and children who stepped up, hundreds of them volunteering to march, be arrested, and serve time in jail. They were sprayed with fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, stuffed into crowded jail cells. And their response?

More children turned out to march. Those jailed sang freedom songs to buoy their spirits. The course of the civil rights movement was changed, and Birmingham was desegregated.

“Don’t hold [your children] back if they want to go to jail,” Dr. King said. “For they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind.”

Frank Morrison’s art is powerful! Rich color, strong faces, muscular and strident oppression, grips us, pulls us right into these children’s experiences. Robinson’s text, narrated by one protestor, is direct, honest, brave, personal, and ultimately joyous. Highly recommended for ages 5 and right on up.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, written by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Bursting with energy and optimism, love and home cooking, comes this story of 9-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks, whose family was so close to Martin Luther King that she grew up calling him just “Mike.”

When the Birmingham Children’s Crusades began, Audrey stepped right up. She was the youngest protester, and was promptly arrested and jailed. Read all about her extraordinary experience, buoyed by the support of her family.

Can you imagine the nerves of steel her parents had, to allow their 9 year old to stand up in this way for her beliefs?!

Lonely days of a little girl in jail.

I think you’ll fall in love with Audrey. You’ll also be tantalized by the “hot rolls baptized in butter” which were one of her favorite treats. You can bake some yourself with the included recipe. A gentler introduction to the Children’s Crusade, civil rights, and standing up for what’s right, for ages 4 and up.

Find more great reads about Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, and Black History via the link at the bottom of the blog.