Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of the religious and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In memory of his words and actions, I thought I’d share two picture books that feature the collaborative nature of the late, great Dr. King.
A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that inspired a Nation
Author: Barry Wittenstein
Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books (Holiday House Publishing, Inc.)/2019
Themes: Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, March on Washington, I Have a Dream speech
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there’s little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it. Find out more in this gripping book with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”
Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.
Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.
Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.
As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom
Author: Richard Michelson
Illustrator: Raul Colón
Publisher/date: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books/2008
Themes: Martin Luther King, Jr., freedom, Judaism, social activism
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Their names stand for the quest for justice and equality.
Martin grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when this country was plagued by racial discrimination. He aimed to put a stop to it. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause.
Abraham grew up in a loving family many years earlier, in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he became a respected rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance.
Here is the story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.
Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.
I paired these books because both highlight times when the late Dr. King collaborated with others. In A Place to Land, readers see Dr. King agonizing over his upcoming speech surrounded by loving friends and confidantes. In As Good as Anybody, the Polish-born, Jewish rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, joined the African-American, Protestant preacher on the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery. In an afterword, readers learn that Rabbi Heschel spoke at Dr. King’s funeral three short years later. I think it’s important that young people understand that Dr. King strengthened and furthered his mission of equality and freedom for all through these collaborations, that by working together for what we believe we all can achieve more.
Looking for similar reads? See my Perfect Pairing from last fall, Perfect Pairing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speeches and Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank (Nancy Churnin, 2019).