PPBF – Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank

I remember as a child being inspired by the words of the subjects of today’s Perfect Picture Book. As a child, and even as an adult who has taken more than my fair share of history courses, I didn’t grasp the parallels in their lives. I’m so glad that the author of today’s Perfect Picture Book saw these parallels, and wrote this book.

Title: Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank

Written By: Nancy Churnin

Illustrated By: Yevgenia Nayberg

Publisher/Date: Creston Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-14

Themes/Topics: biography; the power of words; kindness; hope


In 1929, two babies were born on opposite sides of the ocean. They never met. They didn’t even speak the same language. But their hearts beat with the same hope.

Brief Synopsis: The biographies of Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Jr., both born in 1929, and the parallels of their lives and legacies.

Links to Resources:

  • Think of someone who shares your birthday or who was born in the year you were born. How are your lives the same? How do they differ?
  • Anne Frank is known to many because of her diary. Try writing (or drawing) a diary for a week, a month, a year, or forever!
  • One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most well-known speeches begins, “I have a dream”. Do you have a dream? Describe your dream in words or pictures.
  • Participate in The Kindred Spirits Project, which encourages children and class rooms to discover and share what they have in common with children from other regions, schools or countries.
  • Find more suggestions in the Curriculum/Discussion Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

Utilizing parallel structure, Churnin explores the lives of two well-known historical figures born in 1929: Anne Frank and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although the two never met, they shared life features, such as being born into loving families but facing hatred at an early age. For King, it was being shunned and being barred from “Whites Only” spaces because of his skin color. For Frank, it was being shunned and being barred from school, first in Germany, from which her family fled, and then in Holland, because of her Jewish faith and heritage. Both King and Frank found their voices as teenagers, King as an orator who spoke of “black and white children playing together in harmony”, and Frank as a diarist who reflected on “how light could brighten the deepest darkness”. Despite the challenges they faced, both remained hopeful of a better world. Frank believed in people’s innate goodness, and King believed in the power of peaceful protest to bring about justice for all.

Churnin traces the lives of these peace builders through to their untimely deaths. But rather than dwelling on their early deaths, she leaves readers with hope, as “no one could kill the way Martin inspired others”, and “Anne’s words will never die”.

Many children’s books have been written about the lives and legacies of Martin and Anne. By pointing out the parallels in their lives and in their hopes in the face of hatred, I think Churnin has brought a new perspective to both of their legacies that will empower children to view their own circumstances with hope and treat others with kindness and love.

Because Martin & Anne involves two storylines in distinct locations an ocean apart, the illustrations play an important role in bringing a sense of unity to the whole. Nayberg’s soft, earth-toned, stylized art works well to convey the worlds of both of these historical figures. Her inclusion of a brighter palette towards the end of the book left me feeling hopeful that King’s and Frank’s legacies will endure.

A Note about Craft:

Although children’s biographies of both King and Frank exist, Churnin brings new life to their legacies by showing the parallels in their lives. For those of us writing picture book biographies, this illustrates that finding a fresh way into a story, even if that way involves combining two biographies into one book, enables authors to explore even well-known figures and contribute to our understanding of them.

Visit Churnin’s website to read more about the inspiration behind Martin & Anne and see her other works.

Visit Nayberg’s website to see more of her artwork.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

26 responses to “PPBF – Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank

  1. The cover is beautiful. Such an interesting way to study two separate/similar lives.

  2. I’ve had the good fortune to already read this book and I love everything about it. The juxtaposition of two amazing souls, each with the message of hope and love is truly a work of art. And speaking of art, I am a huge fan of the illustrator! My only complaint is that it wasn’t written sooner so that I could have used it with my former students.

  3. I do think this is a brilliant pairing. I’ve got mine on hold…..

  4. You have your natural pairing in one book this week. I never thought about these two important historic figures, but it does make a lot of sense! I want to read this one! Thanks for recommending. Also like Nancy Churnin’s work.

    • I’ve taken tons of history courses & would never have thought to pair these. But having read this book, I don’t know why no one has written about both of them together before.

  5. Very interesting. I’m super curious to read this now!

  6. I’ve looking forward to reading this one and appreciate your great review of it. I love Nancy’s focus on hope, kindness, and love in the face of some pretty bad nastiness.

    • It amazes me that a picture book about two such well-known historical figures could impart greater understanding of their lives & legacies. I hope you’re able to find a copy soon.

  7. Wow! What an amazing find! I’m definitely looking for this one.

  8. What a lovely opening! Can’t wait to read this. Congrats, Nancy!!

  9. Sue Heavenrich

    How cool to discover two amazing people born half-a-world away… and both have made a lasting impact on us. I can’t wait to read this book!

  10. Sue Heavenrich

    How cool to discover two amazing people born half-a-world away… and both have made a lasting impact on us. I can’t wait to read this book!

  11. Wow! I will be on the look out for this new title. Looks amazing!

  12. This one ALREADY has me fascinated. Requested it from the library – and will likely recommend it to teacher friends once I read it. Great find!

  13. I just got this book and read it. It’s wonderful! A most inspired pairing.

  14. Pingback: PPBF – Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing | Wander, Ponder, Write

  15. Pingback: Perfect Pairing – Celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Wander, Ponder, Write

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