Perfect Pairing of Objects on Journeys

When I saw the haunting cover of Almost to Freedom in my local library, I had to read it. It immediately brought to mind another picture about another child at another time in another part of the world.

 

Almost to Freedom 

Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Illustrator: Colin Bootman

Publisher/Date: Carolrhoda Books (a division of Lerner Publishing Group)/2003

Ages: 6-10

Themes: slavery; Underground Railroad; doll; journey

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

Read a review at Publisher’s Weekly.

 

The Dress and the Girl

Author: Camille Andros

Illustrator: Julie Morstad

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: immigration; memory; journey

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A little girl and her favorite dress dream of an extraordinary life. They enjoy simple pleasures together on a beautiful Greek island. They watch the sunset, do chores, and pick wildflowers on the way home. One day, the dress and the girl must leave the island and immigrate to the United States. Upon arrival, the girl is separated from the trunk carrying her favorite dress, and she fears her dress is lost forever. Many years later, the girl—now all grown up—spots the dress in a thrift store window. As the two are finally reunited, the memories of their times together come flooding back. While the girl can no longer wear the dress, it’s now perfect for her own daughter—and the new journey of a girl and her dress begins. Featuring lush illustrations, The Dress and the Girl is a stunning picture book about memory and the power of the items we hold most dear.

Read my review.

I paired these books because both recount journeys of important inanimate objects that accompany their special persons through difficult life changes. The main character and narrator in Almost to Freedom is Sally, a rag doll who is “best friends” with Lindy, an enslaved girl, who is by Lindy’s side as Lindy is whipped, and who accompanies Lindy and her family as they flee slavery utilizing the Underground Railroad. In The Dress and the Girl, the unnamed pair do everything together, until they are separated accidentally following a journey to America. In both of these books, I think the presence of these beloved objects brings comfort to the children. I think telling these stories by focusing on the objects rather than on the children enables readers to witness the events but be somewhat removed as well, something that I found particularly helpful when reading about Lindy being whipped.

Looking for similar reads?

See Ella & Monkey at Sea, about a young girl and her stuffed monkey who move to America.

PPBF – Thank You, Omu!

Regular readers won’t be surprised that I maintain a to-be-read list of picture books. I also maintain a stack of to-be-reviewed picture books, and I try to maintain a schedule of reviews that reflect some sort of logic. Today’s selection was on that stack, and I couldn’t resist bumping it up on the review schedule after learning the wonderful news that its creator, Oge Mora, received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award this past Monday, and today’s Perfect Picture Book is a 2019 Caldecott Honor Book. I wasn’t surprised by this news, and I don’t think you’ll be either, as Mora’s debut picture book truly is a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Thank You, Omu!

Written & Illustrated By: Oge Mora

Publisher/Date: Little Brown Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc./2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: kindness; sharing; community; stew; multigenerational; multicultural

Opening:

On the corner of First Street and Long Street, on the very top floor, Omu was cooking a thick red stew in a big fat pot for a nice evening meal. She seasoned and stirred it and took a small taste.

Brief Synopsis:

Smelling Omu’s delicious red stew, neighbors arrive at Omu’s apartment, and she shares with all of them until there’s nothing left.

Links to Resources:

  • With the help of an adult, cook a “thick red stew”;
  • Ask an older relative or friend about special foods they enjoyed preparing or eating as a child. Make, and share, that special food;
  • Does your family have a special name for a grandparent or older relative? Discover the language and meaning of that term, and why your family uses it;
  • View a Book Chat video with Mora.

Why I Like this Book:

Thank You, Omu! is a joyous book of community and caring. Debut author-illustrator Mora shows readers the meaning of that old adage, that “it’s in giving that we receive”, as Omu shares bowl after bowl of her thick red stew.

Readers learn at the outset that Omu (pronounced AH-moo) means “queen” in the Igbo language spoken in parts of Nigeria. To Mora, per an Author’s Note, that term also signifies “grandma.” As is clear in the text and illustrations, Omu is a caring woman, who shares willingly with neighbors and community members until “it was finally time for dinner” but the pot “was empty.” I think kids will relate to Omu’s generous spirit and especially to her feelings of disappointment when she discovers that she has nothing to eat for dinner. I think they’ll especially appreciate the book’s ending (which I won’t reveal here!).

Mora invites readers to experience Thank You, Omu! with all of our senses. “[S]crumptious scent[s]” and a “most delicious smell” of “thick red stew” simmering waft their way to hungry neighbors. I could almost smell and feel the stew on my tongue as I read. Likewise, the visitors showed their hunger by licking lips and watering mouths. Mora illustrates her text with colorful cut-out collage artwork incorporating floral patterns, acrylic paint, pastels, patterned paper, and clippings from old books. I think this conveys an upbeat, joyful feeling. The image of Omu, clad in sunny yellow, radiates, like her sharing disposition, throughout the story.

A Note about Craft:

In an Author’s Note, Mora recounts the memory of her grandmother cooking “what was often a large pot of stew” as she danced and swayed to the radio. She further relates that “[e]veryone in the community had a seat at my grandmother’s table.” It’s clear that not only has this memory had a significant impact on Mora’s life but that she’s recreated that sense of sharing and community in Thank You, Omu! I think because these scenes are etched in Mora’s heart, they resonate with readers. What caring characters fill your memories that can help bring heart to your stories? And what terms, such as Omu, can you use in your writing to add layers, such as multiculturalism, to the story?

The Main Character of Thank You, Omu! is Omu, an elderly woman. So how is this story kid-centric? First, I think children (and adults) like to read about caring elders. I also believe that Omu’s willingness to share is child-like, as she never questions whether her visitors are hungry or whether they don’t have other sources of food. Finally, the first visitor is a young child with whom, I think, kids will identify. Interestingly, he also has the last word of the story (but I won’t spoil it & tell you what that is).

Visit Mora’s website to see more of her artwork and find out about upcoming picture books.

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!

Perfect Pairing – Safe & Snug With Me

As winter holds sway in the northern hemisphere, I’ve paired two picture books from a talented author and illustrator duo that are perfect for a cozy read by a fireplace.

You’re Safe With Me

Author: Chitra Soundar

Illustrator: Poonam Mistry

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: animals; stormy weather; environment; reassurance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When the moon rises high and the stars twinkle, it is bedtime for the baby animals of the Indian forest. But tonight, when the skies turn dark and the night grows stormy, the little ones can’t sleep. SWISH-SWISH! CRACK-TRACK! FLASH-SNAP! goes the storm. Only Mama Elephant with her words of wisdom can reassure them, “You’re safe with me.”

Read a review at Library Mice.

 

You’re Snug With Me

Author: Chitra Soundar

Illustrator: Poonam Mistry

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages:  4-8

Themes: animals; polar bears; Arctic; conservationism; reassurance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

At the start of winter, two bear cubs are born, deep in their den in the frozen north. “Mama, what lies beyond here?” they ask. “Above us is a land of ice and snow.” “What lies beyond the ice and snow?” they ask. “The ocean, full of ice from long ago.” And as they learn the secrets of the earth and their place in it, Mama Bear whispers, “You’re snug with me.”

Read a review at Read It, Daddy!

I paired these books because they’re beautifully written and illustrated by the same pair and feature similar ecological themes. But while You’re Safe With Me features several different jungle animals in tropical India, You’re Snug With Me focuses on one polar bear Mama and her cubs in the frozen north. I enjoyed Soundar’s lyrical storytelling in both, and I especially appreciated how Mistry adapted her distinctive illustration style to two radically different environments. Although these may not technically be a series yet, I hope that this talented pair collaborate on a future environmental tale.

PPBF: Multicultural Children’s Book Day – The Journey of York

It’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an annual event to celebrate new, inclusive children’s books. See below to find out more about the many sponsors, participating reviewers, and events.

Title: The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Written By: Hasan Davis

Illustrated By: Alleanna Harris

Publisher/Date: Capstone Editions, a Capstone imprint/2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: slavery; Lewis & Clark Expedition; American history; explorers; African-American explorers

Opening:

Long before Thomas Jefferson became America’s third president, he dreamed of western exploration….

In May 1804 Captain Lewis, Captain Clark, and twenty-eight men set out from St. Louis, Missouri, in three boats with the goal of reaching the Pacific Ocean. All but one of those men were volunteers. This is his story.

Brief Synopsis: The true tale of York, a slave belonging to Captain William Clark, who participated in the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the western continent from the American frontier to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the Lewis & Clark Expedition;
  • Follow the trail of the Expedition and visit National Park Service sites associated with it;
  • Visit the Statue of York in Louisville, Kentucky;
  • An Author’s Note recounts the story after the Expedition ends and the group returns to civilization;
  • Be an Explorer! Plan an expedition to discover a new destination in your neighborhood. Who will you ask to join you? What will you bring? How will you measure how far you travel and map your route?

Why I Like this Book:

In short, diary-like entries, York, a slave, recounts the travels of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and shares his perspectives on this history-making journey across the unexplored western territories of the United States. Although York left no actual diaries and his thoughts and feelings are extrapolations from other sources, adding his “voice” to the history enriches the story and results in a more accurate account of the events.

I think young explorers will enjoy this more-inclusive perspective on American history, and I think teachers will appreciate the questions it raises about the interactions of African-Americans and Native Americans, about other contributions of African-Americans to our history, and about how slavery in frontier areas differed from slavery in the “civilized” regions of our early nation. Of particular interest, I think, is the fact that York voted, with the other Expedition members, on the location of a winter camp in Oregon, but his name did not appear on the official Expedition roster, he “received no pay, no land, and no recognition for his sacrifice”, nor did he receive his freedom upon return to “civilization”.

Harris’ color-filled, rich tableaux feature many natural scenes that brought to mind nineteenth-century American landscape paintings. Several also depicted York at the edges of the scenes to, I think, highlight the divide between the others’ freedom and York’s enslavement.

A Note about Craft:

In a publisher’s note, we learn that The Journey of York “is based on the author’s extensive research” and that “[e]very effort has been made to tell York’s story with historical accuracy, but the author has taken some creative license in filling in the gaps, especially regarding the thoughts and feelings of York, for which little to no historical documentation exists.” For those writing picture book biographies, especially about persons from marginalized groups who may have left no first-person written records, it’s a difficult task to recreate their stories. It’s especially difficult to write that biography utilizing first-person point-of-view and include that person’s thoughts and feelings, as Davis has done here. Despite the risk, though, the reward of a better, more inclusive history is high, when done well, as Davis has done, and when the author and/or publisher warns readers of the “creative license”.

Note the double meaning of the word “journey” in the title: as both the actual journey York and the Expedition members undertook and York’s journey of discovering how the Native Americans revered him as “Big Medicine” and how his strength, and vote, mattered when the Corps was traversing the wilderness.

Learn more about Hasan Davis and his work with children. Visit Alleanna Harris’ website to view more of her artwork and children’s book illustrations.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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!

And now, more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board:

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here:https://wp.me/P5tVud-

*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-2eN

Medallion Level Sponsors: 

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito</a, KidLitTVLerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul,RedfinAuthor Gayle H. SwiftT.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear PressDow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board:

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen Rahming,Blythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam,Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts: A Crafty ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial BookwormsBooks My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon ReadsEducators Spin on it Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media:

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party ( a prize every 5 minutes!). GO HERE for more details

FREE RESOURCES From MCBD:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld!

Perfect Pairing of Fathers and Sons

Last week, I paired two picture books about the final months of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, in honor of his birthday yesterday. In that post, I pointed out the centrality of economic equality to Dr. King’s dream and how he was in Memphis to support sanitation workers. So today, in honor of that aspect of his message, I’ve paired two picture books in which economic insecurity is a central, but unstated, part of the story:

 

A Different Pond

Author: Bao Phi

Illustrator: Thi Bui

Publisher/Date: Capstone Young Readers/2017

Ages: 6-8

Themes: economic insecurity;  immigrants; fishing; father-son relationship; Vietnam; family traditions

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.

Read my review.

 

Night Job

Author: Karen Hesse

Illustrator: G. Brian Karas

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: economic insecurity; father-son relationship; school custodian

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

With lyrical narration and elegant, evocative artwork, Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse and illustrator G. Brian Karas share the nighttime experience of a father and child.

When the sun sets, Dad’s job as a school custodian is just beginning. What is it like to work on a Friday night while the rest of the city is asleep? There’s the smell of lilacs in the night air, the dusky highway in the moonlight, and glimpses of shy nighttime animals to make the dark magical. Shooting baskets in the half-lit gym, sweeping the stage with the game on the radio, and reading out loud to his father in the library all help the boy’s time pass quickly. But what makes the night really special is being with Dad. Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse’s quietly powerful story of a boy and his father is tenderly brought to life by G. Brian Karas in this luminous tribute to an enduring, everyday sort of love.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they provide empathetic portraits of father-son relationships and are slice-of-life stories in which economic insecurity plays a central, but unstated, role. In A Different Pond, a young boy and his dad go fishing in the darkness of early morning. We also learn, though, through subtle clues, that the family is not only recent immigrants from Vietnam, but that they are struggling financially: the boy and his father seek to catch fish for the family’s dinner, and the father works multiple jobs. In Night Shift, the family’s economic situation is less clear, but the young narrator accompanies his custodian father to a school at night and stays with him through the shift, perhaps because there is no other family member to care for the child then or because the father can’t afford to pay someone to stay with the boy. As the pair work, they listen to a ball game that is “played miles away”, even as the father proceeds to clean the school “from stem to stern”.  In both stories, the parent-child bond is strong, the boys are proud of their fathers’ work, and it’s clear that everyone cherishes the time spent together.

PPBF – The Wall in the Middle of the Book

When I saw the cover of today’s Perfect Picture Book and then read a review (thank you, Julie Rowan-Zoch!), I knew I had to read and review it. And with a certain wall in the news so much these days, I thought now is the right time to focus on a different type of wall:

Title: The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Written & Illustrated By: Jon Agee

Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: misperceptions; wall; ogres; fear; knight

Opening:

There’s a wall in the middle of the book.

And it’s a good thing.

Brief Synopsis:

A knight on one side of a wall fears the wild animals and ogre on the other side of the wall until he learns that maybe his side of the wall isn’t as safe as he’d imagined.

Links to Resources:

  • Play 20 Questions, Charades, or another guessing game;
  • The “dangerous” animals in The Wall in the Middle of the Book are afraid of a tiny mouse. Think of other small animals or insects that scare you or other larger animals or people. Why do you think these creatures are scary?
  • Build a wall or fort out of building blocks, empty boxes or other stackable things you can find in your home. And then have fun tearing it down;
  • Watch the book trailer.

Why I Like this Book:

Sometimes you read a book and you laugh aloud because of the humorous situation described. But then you realize that while the book may be humorous, the author is making a serious point about human nature, misperceptions, and judging others based on looks or pre-conceptions.

In The Wall in the Middle of the Book, the knight on one side of the wall uses short, declarative sentences perfect for young listeners to explain how he is safe because of the wall between him and the wild animals and ogre on the other side. Shown only in the illustrations, though, it’s clear to readers (especially observant young children), that the knight’s safety is illusory only: real danger lurks on his side of the wall. I think even the youngest of children will love watching the danger progress even as the knight talks on and on about the safety of his side of the book. And I think adult readers will love that young listeners are realizing a valuable lesson about jumping to conclusions and judging others based on appearance or other biases, especially as this is such a fun book for reading aloud.

Set against a white background, the red brick wall provides a stark division between the action occurring on the two sides. And the large, easily-identifiable animals and ogre and the friendly-faced knight are wonderful for young listeners who, I think, will follow this story easily and beg adults to read it again and again.

A Note about Craft:

Agee uses primarily first-person POV and straightforward sentences as the knight tells readers how safe he is on his side of the wall. Readers and listeners, though, can see both sides of the wall and the looming danger on the seemingly-safe side. This set up, I think, ramps up the humor and enables readers to reach the conclusion that all is not what the knight sees or thinks.

The Wall inhabits the gutter of the book, thus utilizing the “whole book” to tell the story. I think The Wall in the Middle of the Book would be a wonderful choice for Meghan Dowd Lambert’s whole book approach to story time, as so much of the story is evident only from the illustrations, and Agee utilizes the space and proportions of characters to great effect.

Finally, Agee uses humor and suspense to encourage young children to realize that preconceived beliefs can be incorrect – a truth that sometimes adults don’t heed.

Visit Agee’s website to discover more of his picture books, and read an interview with Agee about creating The Wall in the Middle of the Book.

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!

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).