Perfect Pairing – Reflections on the Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday next Monday, almost fifty years after the assassination that cut short his life far too soon, two new picture books recount the last weeks of his life, one in a series of poems, the other in a combination of snapshot-like prose and poetry.

 

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrator: Brian Pinkney

Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press/2018

Ages: 8+

Themes: Martin Luther King Jr.; Civil Rights; protest

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning.
Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality — and whose courage to make it happen — changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.
Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the “Now Is the Time” history and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration — and adding selected poems to tell the story!

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Author: Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

Publisher/Date: Calkins Creek (an imprint of Highlights)/2018

Ages: 9-12

Themes: Martin Luther King Jr.; Civil Rights; protest

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.
In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because I believe that reading them together will help children gain a more complete picture of this epic era and the legacy of Dr. King and his dreams. In Martin Rising, Andrea Pinkney crafts a series of “docu-poems” (her term) using religious and folkloric imagery combined with Brian Pinkney’s abstract visuals to recount the last months of the sainted icon of the Civil Rights movement. She also sought to “honor the lives and spirits of the sanitation workers” whose fight Dr. King took up (quotations from the Author’s Reflections). In Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, Duncan “mined” history books and the “memories of a Memphis teacher” who had marched as a young girl and whose father was a striking sanitation worker. Duncan also tells the story in short, poetic vignettes (quotations from Introduction). Both texts include wonderful back matter to further readers’ experiences, and both remind readers of the centrality of economic equality to Dr. King’s dream.

Looking for similar reads?

See, I Have a Dream, the words of Dr. King’s well-known speech paired with paintings by Kadir Nelson (2012).

2 responses to “Perfect Pairing – Reflections on the Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Pingback: Perfect Pairing of Fathers and Sons | Wander, Ponder, Write

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