by Bryan Patrick Avery
I’m posting this on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. The past few years have been a fairly turbulent time in the U.S. and around. As we take to the streets to celebrate the life of Dr. King, and his impact on peace and freedom in our world, I wanted to look at three books which explore his life and legacy, all in very different, but engaging ways.
“As Good As Anybody”, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colón, tells the story of two civil rights leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. The story is told in two parts. The first part follows King from the time he is a young boy in Georgia, angry over the mistreatment of Blacks due to Jim Crow laws. As he grows older, he begins to take an active role in fighting discrimination. This leads to him leading a march from Selma to Montgomery. Along the way, the march is nearly stopped by authorities who assault the marchers. Unwilling to give up, King puts out a call for people to join the march. This is the start of the second part of the book: the story of Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Heschel’s story begins in Poland. The son of a rabbi, Heschel learned at a young age to treat everyone fairly, especially those most in need of help. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a rabbi and moved to Germany. When Hitler came to power, Heschel was forced to leave Germany and returned to Poland. Even in Poland, he found that Jews were treated unfairly. Before long, he decided to travel to America in search of freedom. Once there, Heschel spoke out against discrimination and prejudice and, eventually, found himself marching shoulder to shoulder with Martin Luther King, Jr. through Selma, Alabama. Together, they worked tirelessly to bring down the walls of oppression.
“As Good As Anybody” tells a wonderful story of two civil rights heroes. The language makes it accessible for both older and younger readers. Colón’s illustrations are captivating and evoke emotions with every page turn. If you’re looking for a good example of a creative way to tell a biography, check this one out.
It’s no secret that editors are looking for stories that go beyond the traditional biography. If you’re looking for a book that just does that, check out Eve Bunting’s “The Cart that Carried Martin”. Wonderfully illustrated by Don Tate, this book tells the story of the cart that mourners used to carry the body Martin Luther King, Jr. on the day of his funeral. But it doesn’t stop there.
The story begins with “borrowing” the cart from in front of Cook’s Antiques and Stuff. Next, the reader is taken inside Ebenezer Baptist Church to experience the emotion of his funeral service. Then, the cart is hitched to a pair a mules for the journey across Atlanta and we are invited to join in the solemn march. Finally, after the service at Morehouse College ends, we return the cart to Cook’s. This journey helps give meaning to Kings life and work and “The Cart That Carried Martin” should be a treasured item on any bookshelf.
Another creative approach to biography is using a special or unique connection to the subject. This allows an author to create a book that provides special or otherwise unknown information. “My Brother Martin” was written by Christine King Farris, the sister of Martin Luther King, Jr., and illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. “My Brother Martin” won the NAACP Image Award and was named a Best Book of the Year by A Child Magazine. What is so special about this book is the closeness we feel with Dr. King through the words of his sister. From pranks they pulled as young kids to difficult discussions they had with their parents about bigotry and hatred. This book gives us a glimpse inside life with the King family, and a hint of the experiences, and teachings which helped King become the man who helped lead a nation forward in civility. You may not personally know someone as famed as Martin Luther King, Jr. but there are still many stories that only you can tell.
Well, that’s all for this month. Have a magical, and peaceful, month.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.