That dynamic husband-and-wife duo otherwise known as the Pinkneys deliver a fresh, inspiring look at the Civil Rights Movement with their latest picture book, Martin & Mahalia: His Words Her Song. This vivid biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson reveals a significant friendship honed by common struggles, hopes, and strengths.
Author Andrea Davis Pinkney struts her storytelling stuff here, employing a warm, intimate tone of voice, a powerful yet simple evocation of segregation’s degrading effects on daily life, and a pleasing parallel structure that zeroes in on the two African-American heroes’ shared values and contributions to a more just society. For instance, she writes that “Martin SPOKE the gospel./PRAYED the gospel./SOUGHT the gospel./TAUGHT the gospel.” On the following page, she notes Mahalia “… SANG the gospel./WORKED the gospel./LED the gospel./SPREAD the gospel.” Not only that, the author injects a remarkable sense of movement: “Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s spirituals told their listeners: YOU ARE HERE./ON THE PATH./COME ALONG./STEP PROUD./STAND STRONG./BE BRAVE./GO WITH ME./to a place,/to a time,/when we all will BE FREE.”
The synergy between her words and Brian Pinkney’s swirling, energetic watercolor paintings ensures a remarkable read-aloud experience, whether one-on-one or with a group. The book design choices to vary the size, font, and color of the typeface serve to pump up the story’s energy level. The illustrator reinforces the relevance of particular verbs (such as “sang,” “worked,” etc.) by encircling the subject with those same words.
Use this powerful picture book to launch discussions of the Civil Rights Movement, the power of peace and justice, and the continuing possibilities for positive change.
See also …
My prior post on Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
and these links:
- Mahalia Jackson sings I’m On My Way to Canaan Land.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream Speech” (TeacherTube).
- Interview with Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney