Voice of a Century

Thanks to the latest picture book by acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford, you can bring in the sublime opera singer Leontyne Price to celebrate Black History Month. With poetic prose and vibrant illustrations, Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century delivers a lyrical, uplifting story Leontyne Price Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherfordchildren should hear, whatever the time of year.

With elegantly crafted poetic prose, Weatherford places the singer’s story in the context of the oppressive world in which she was born, in 1927. “All a black girl from the Cotton Belt could expect was a heap of hard work–as a maid, mill worker, or sharecropper. Her song, most surely the blues.”

Despite the miseries of rural Mississippi, Leontyne thrived, growing up with a loving family that encouraged her interest in music. One of the highlights of Raul Colon’s illustrations for me is the full-page portrait done in Prismacolor pencils of a dreamy young Leontyne, eyes closed as she revels in the Saturday-afternoon radio broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera. Leontyne’s parents sold their treasured phonograph to pay for a piano and lessons for their daughter.

The girl’s world expanded even more when, as a church choir member, she got to see the famous Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Soon, Leontyne was off, too, heading for college in Ohio, where she could become qualified to teach music, “the concert stage out of reach for a black singer then.”

Here, another of my favorite illustrations shows Leontyne with her white gloves and her be-ribboned hat, waiting to catch the bus to take her far from home. The double-spread, done in Colon’s characteristic swirls, evokes the energy and hope it must have taken to propel Leontyne toward a richer life.

Then Leontyne learned she, too, could hope to sing on stage; the college president heard her sing a solo and convinced her to focus on developing her voice. And so she made her way to Juilliard and found her true calling.

This daughter of a sawmill worker and a midwife became the first black opera singer to garner leading roles at the Met and at Italy’s famous opera house La Scala. She was the first black opera singer to perform on television in the U.S., as Weatherford relates in her concluding author’s note. Can you imagine how inspiring it must have been for so many to sit in their living rooms and watch the regal singer perform?

Pair this engaging story with one of Price’s recordings — or, better yet, use a YouTube video showing her astounding 1963 televised performance of “O patria mia” from Verdi’s Aida. Then teach children this simple Italian word: Bravissima!

See also …

my previous post on Carole Boston Weatherford, featuring Freedom on the Menu.


Justice, Ink, Wells

Ida B. Wells was a one-woman wonder. Acclaimed journalist, a founder of the NAACP, a relentless civil-rights activist, an educator, suffragette, wife and mother, she was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her words would light up the nation.

Philip Dray’s Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist takes children back to the corrupt, segregated Jim Crow era in which Ida, the oldest of eight children, grew up. Even though slavery was abolished when she was 3, the ability to exercise that freedom was limited for her family, as well as for other African Americans. A touching passage in this picture book shows young Ida reading the newspaper aloud to her father and his friend, who never had the opportunity to attend school and learn to read.

At 16, her parents and a baby brother died from yellow fever, and Ida insisted she would take care of them. After passing the teachers’ exam, her career as an educator began in what “looked more like a barn than a classroom,” with few books or supplies for a crowd that spanned all ages.

When her siblings grew older, Ida found a better-paying teaching job in Memphis, TN, where she joined a group of intellectuals called a lyceum. This is where Ida first flexed her journalistic talents. In her position as editor of the group’s journal, she began to write about educational, political, and practical matters.

Ida was on her way, perhaps in ways she had not anticipated. Boarding a train to her school one day, Ida settled into the first-class car, for which she had bought a ticket. The conductor, however, told her she couldn’t sit there, as it was reserved for whites only. She refused to move, and he and some others forced her off the train. (Interestingly, the author omits the detail of Ida biting the hand of the conductor as he tried to drag her out of her seat.)

Ida was not finished with that train. She hired a lawyer and sued the company. The judge ruled the railroad would have to pay Ida $500. Alas, that decision was appealed to Tennessee’s Supreme Court, where it was overturned.

Ida was not finished with that train. She wrote of her court case against the railroad, and that story appeared in newspapers around the country. People would hear a lot from Ida B. Wells in the coming years.

She became a business partner and writer for the local newspaper Memphis Free Speech and was able to support herself as a journalist. Sadly, some of her most important articles were born of a friend’s murder.

Tom Moss and a couple of friends had a popular store in Memphis called The People’s Grocery. A white man who owned a nearby store talked about how he’d like to see Tom go out of business. One night in 1892, several white men stormed the store. To scare them off, Tom’s friends fired their guns. Subsequently they and not their attackers were arrested and thrown in jail.

The trial never occurred, however. A mob of white men took Tom and his friends out of the jail and lynched them. No one was ever charged with those murders.

After researching the prevalence of lynching (in the early 1890s, a black person was lynched almost every other day, as this book notes in information following the story), Ida wrote numerous articles and essays about the issue. In doing so, she exposed herself to unfathomable risks.

In fact, a group of angry white men destroyed her newspaper offices. Fortunately, Ida was away in New York, where she would soon take a job writing for The New York Age, one of the nation’s most popular black newspapers. This was just the platform she needed to expose the depravity of lynching and the injustice of Jim Crow laws. “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them,” she wrote, seemingly describing the mission of her life.

Mr. Dray, the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, skillfully employs both primary and secondary sources in his first book for children. He complements the inspiring narrative with an afterword supplying additional information about Ida B. Wells, as well as a timeline, information about lynching, and a bibliography. This title — taken from Wells’s customary way of closing her writing — is highly recommended for fourth grade and up, and could facilitate discussions on equality, social justice, women’s history, African-American history, and the role of journalism in exposing a culture’s hypocrisy and wrongs.

For ages 10 and up, see also …

Related Articles

“The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow” from PBS.

The World in Grandpa’s Hands

Margaret Mason’s gentle picture book These Hands features a loving grandfather who has much to teach his grandson. He uses his old and capable hands to show young Joseph how to tie his shoes, how to play the piano, to shuffle cards, and how to hit a line drive.

He also reveals a slice of history neither the boy nor many of us readers realized. “Look at these hands, Joseph. Did you know these hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory?”

The tender sepia-toned oil-wash artwork by the renowned Floyd Cooper sheds a warm glow on the earth-toned images of the boy and his grandfather. The illustrations contribute to the reassuring tone and message of this simple, yet powerful picture book.

Grandpa tells Joseph how “these hands joined with other hands. And we wrote our petitions, and we carried our signs, and we raised our voices together. Now any hands can touch the bread dough, no matter their color. Yes, they can.”

The author’s note explains how, in the ’50s and early ’60s, African-American workers at the Wonder Bread, Awrey, and Tastee bakery factories were allowed to sweep and load trucks, but were not permitted to work as bread dough mixers. The author relates how she learned the history from Joe Barnett, a leader of the bakery labor union.

Don’t miss this fine inter-generational story, as it provides so many wonderful opportunities to discuss the role of families and the need to work together to battle injustice in its many forms.

And see …

“Beyond the mountain, more mountains”

Acclaimed CNN journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault gives a vivid and inspiring account of how she “stood on the shoulders of giants” in fulfilling her own significant role in the Civil Rights movement.

Among the 1.8 million who traveled to Washington, DC, to witness the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president were the author and her husband. Opening her memoir with a description of the event, Ms. Hunter-Gault says it led her to reflect on her own participation in the arduous trek toward equality.

Mingled with her excitement were bittersweet memories of the many braves ones lost along the way, whether through racist violence or from natural causes, including her friend and classmate Hamilton Holmes, who “walked into history with me through the gates of the University of Georgia.” Obama’s election marked a special place in that long journey fueled by the lyrics of the spiritual: “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’roun’/ . . . Keep on walkin’ / Keep on talkin’/ Walking up the Freedom Trail.”

Ms. Hunter-Gault employs a lively pace and an accessible, photo-filled format that provides historical context for her role in the Civil Rights movement. The black-and-white copies of New York Times front pages provide fascinating insight into the events she relates, beginning with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that rejected the legitimacy of “separate but equal” facilities, including public schools. Despite the law, years of inequity and dimmed prospects dragged on, as no state in the Deep South initiated desegregation. Separate schools, trains, buses, parks, pools, restaurants, bathrooms, and even water fountains pocked the region. The author cites the conditions at her elementary school in little Covington, GA, which had raggedy, incomplete old textbooks, and no cafeteria.

In Atlanta, where her family moved when she was about 10, she benefited from dedicated teachers and a nurturing environment. “We lived happily apart and generally removed from the worst manifestations of segregation, hardly ever encountering overt hostility from whites.”

Such a fragile balance foundered, though, after four black students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College held a sit-in at Woolworth’s five-and-dime, in Greensboro, NC, in 1960. Soon sit-ins spread across the south, including Atlanta, as African-Americans glimpsed the possibilities of a more just society. Thousands of local college students took to the streets of downtown Atlanta in 1960. Charlayne began her reporting career by covering such events for the bold new Atlanta Inquirer. (Another staff writer, Julian Bond, became its managing editor before vaulting into a many-storied political career.)

A significant prospect prevented Ms. Hunter-Gault from participating in those protests. Although she had been admitted to Wayne State in Michigan, several Atlanta civil rights leaders encouraged her and another outstanding high-school classmates to apply to the all-white University of Georgia, the oldest public university in the nation. At a time when it was uncommon for white students to attend college so far from home, black students’ choices were limited. Georgia, like some other Southern states, provided money for black students to study out of state.

Charlayne and Hamilton Holmes, then enrolled at Morehouse, agreed to accept the challenge. Knowing an arrest would likely result from participating in a sit-in, she refused to give the University of Georgia an excuse to reject her application. For a few more months, Charlayne would wait for her opportunity to challenge racism.

In the fall, the author returned to Wayne State but was summoned to Atlanta for the December trial that would determine whether she and Hamilton would be allowed to enroll at UGA. The NYT headline proclaimed their success: “2 NEGRO STUDENTS ENTER GEORGIA U.: Integration Effected as U.S. Court Blocks Governor’s Effort to Shut School.”

The author began the year of 1961 by walking through the iconic black-iron arch that marks the entrance to the oldest part of the campus. Those steps would lead not only to her own success, but also to her own groundbreaking role in the Civil Rights movement. Although she endured cold stares, taunts, and a window-shattering brick, she found strength in recalling the Twenty-third Psalm, which her grandmother had taught her. And while the author alludes to being isolated in her own room (in the gracious four-story Myers Hall, where I lived in the late 1970s), she balances that experience with recollections of the horrifying violence encountered by Civil Rights activists throughout the South, especially as they worked for voting rights in the dangerous state of Mississippi.

Ms. Hunter-Gault triumphed with her journalism degree from UGA and then headed to New York, but many of her contemporaries, such as the Freedom Riders, intent on protecting voting rights, braved beatings and worse. John Lewis, the group’s first to take a blow, in Rockhill, SC, recalled being “prepared to die.” Many, in fact, did—black and white, young and old.

To the Mountaintop
speaks to the power of the press in both accelerating and deepening public awareness of inequality, as journalists such as Ms. Hunter-Gault explore once-overlooked events and perspectives. “I could still make a contribution by reporting on people who had been excluded from the white-controlled media. I resolved to seek out stories that showed black people in all their humanity–their problems, as well as their achievements, struggles as well as victories.” From Harlem to Gaza, from Somalia to South Africa, she has cultivated those stories and shared them with the world.

Even as Ms. Hunter-Gault looks back on her own career and on the highlights of the movement, she points to issues that deserve action, including the still-unsolved Civil Rights-era murders. Citing the Haitian proverb “Beyond the mountain, more mountains,” she stresses that the struggle for justice is never over. A timeline and the full text of 10 NYT articles provide additional context for this engrossing and uplifting account.

Reprinted with permission from the New York Journal of Books.

  • Civil Rights Digital Library Educators, don’t miss this fascinating source for primary resources. As the site points out, “The initiative promotes an enhanced understanding of the [Civil Rights] Movement through its three principal components: 1) a digital video archive of historical news film allowing learners to be nearly eyewitnesses to key events of the Civil Rights Movement, 2) a civil rights portal providing a seamless virtual library on the Movement by connecting related digital collections on a national scale, and 3) a learning objects component delivering secondary Web-based resources – such as contextual stories, encyclopedia articles, lesson plans, and activities–to facilitate the use of the video content in the learning process.”

Freedom on the Menu

Carole Boston Weatherford is the vibrant author of some of the best children’s books  exploring African-American history.  I met Carole a year ago after she flew up from North Carolina to come visit our school library. As a snowstorm barreled in that day, we felt forced to change our schedule. Carole mastered the situation with grace and verve, adjusting each of her three sessions to relate perfectly to the age group. She recited poems to the youngest; she had children participating by chanting, jingling bells and tapping a triangle. They left the library joyous and inspired!

A section of lunch counter from the Greensboro...

Image via Wikipedia

With the fourth and fifth-graders, she discussed Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins and presented a sensitive and nuanced look at Jim Crow as it still existed when she was a child in Baltimore. She showed a photograph of the park where she and her family were not allowed to go. The students were solemn and spellbound. Carole Boston Weatherford knows how to make history real to children.

Freedom on the Menu (Dial, 2004), is one my favorite read-alouds for Black History Month. Told from the point of view of eight-year-old Connie, the story takes readers to the Woolsworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Connie and her mother often stop there for a soda after shopping downtown. Connie would like to sit down and have a banana split instead, but can’t; only whites may sit at the counter.  “All over town signs told Mama and me where we could and couldn’t go,” Connie lamented. Lagarrigue’s somber, impressionistic paintings show the hateful Jim Crow signs that warp the community. Changes are in the air, though, as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to town. Connie sees her older siblings become politically involved and join in the lunch counter sit-ins. As the protests spread through the South, laws change. Six months later, Connie gets to savor her banana split at the counter, and it tastes like so sweet — like freedom. The author’s note about the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins provides additional information that will help young people understand the Civil Rights movement. See Weatherford’s web site for lesson plans inspired by this exemplary picture book, which works well with ages 6-10.

And don’t miss these treasures …

For older children:

The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights. illus. by Tim Ladwig. Eerdmans, 2009. Ages 7-12. Anyone looking for a picture book to illustrate the role of religion in helping people survive and eventually overcome tragedy should take a look at this beautiful book. Weatherford illuminates the path from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to African-Americans’ long struggle for freedom and equality. From the dark Middle Passage in the bowels of slave ships to the inauguration of Pres. Barack Obama, people have found hope, strength, and inspiration in their religious faith. Concise biographical profiles of famous African-Americans are included.

Birmingham, 1963. Wordsong, 2007. Ages 10+ This stunning little masterpiece pairs actual black-and-white photographs with Weatherford’s poems to describe the ruthless bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four girls, an event that became a turning point in the struggle for equality. Told from the perspective on an unnamed fictional girl, we hear how

The day I turned ten
Our church was quiet. No meetings, no marches.
Mama left me in Sunday school
With a soft kiss and coins for the offering plate.

In addition to her moving poems, Weatherford provides a section that profiles the four young girls who died in the bombing. Additional historical background and photo citations are included, as well.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. illus. by Kadir Nelson. Jump at the Sun, 2006. Ages 7-12. This fictionalized story of Harriet Tubman focuses on the spiritual journey of the woman who risked her life time after time to help others escape from slavery, as she had done. In spare, poetic text, we hear how she flees Maryland, in hopes of reaching Pennsylvania. “A boatman rows her upriver. Back on shore, hounds snarl, sniff for Harriet’s trail. She races as fast as she can. Lord, I can’t outrun them. God speaks through a babbling brook: SHED YOUR SHOES, WADE IN THE WATER TO TRICK THE DOGS.” As Tubman encounters a series of dangers along the way, she calls upon God for help each time. When she reaches the free state of Pennsylvania, she finds her journey has just begun. Now it is time to help others. Nelson’s grand, atmospheric oil and watercolor paintings won a Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. Weatherford provides an accessible foreword on the institution of slavery, as well as an author’s note with a brief biography.

For younger children …

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane. illus. by Sean Qualls. Holt, 2008. Ages 5-7. Read it and then put on some Coltrane and dance!

First Pooch: Malia and Sasha Pick a Pet. illus. by Amy Bates. Marshall Cavendish, 2009. Ages 5-8. Light-hearted story of the First Family choosing their first dog.

Jazz Baby. illus. by Laura Freeman. Lee & Low, 2002. Ages 4-7. Rollicking, rhyming fun for little ones

Shining a Light on Bryan Collier

This Black History Month, why not introduce
children to one of today’s most creative children’s book illustrators: Bryan Collier. A good place to start is with Collier’s latest, a picture-book biography that won the 2011 Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor for its stunning illustrations.

Hill, Laban Carrick. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. illus. by Bryan Collier. Little Brown, 2010.

Hill’s spare, poetic text opens with the image of dirt. “But to Dave it was clay, the plain and basic stuff upon which he learned to form a life as a slave nearly two hundred years ago.” The simple words work with Collier’s art to focus on the growth and development of a unique artist. Known simply as Dave, this talented man went on to create about 40,000 pots, some of which are displayed in museums today. The concise biography gains heft and power with Collier’s textured, earth-colored watercolor/collage images. The illustrations feature Dave’s strong hands, especially in Collier’s four-paneled foldout showing how “Dave’s hands, buried in the mounded mud, pulled out the shape of a jar.” Collier clearly situates the artist’s remarkable achievement within the context of South Carolina’s lush green landscape and its cotton fields, worked by enslaved field hands. Living in a time when that state outlawed the education of slaves, Dave often wrote brief poems on his pots. The final illustration shows him picking up a stick to write a few lines that “let us know that he was here.” Facts about Dave’s life and art, a photograph of his work, and the author’s sources are included. This is a beautiful book that will lead to discussions on justice, slavery, and the nature of creativity.

Note: On February 5 you can see Bryan Collier at the African American Children’s Book Fair in Philadelphia, happening 1 to 3 p.m. at the Philadelphia Community College.

A Sampling of Collier’s Outstanding Books

Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport. Jump at the Sun, 2000. Ages 9-12. Rappaport and Collier make a fantastic team: exemplary nonfiction prose and striking, thought-provoking collages. This thrilling, true story tells of a little-known hero: John Parker, an ex-slave who helped hundreds escape from slavery into freedom. Risking all, Parker crossed the Ohio River time after time to bring slaves from slave-owning Kentucky to the free state of Ohio. Rappaport zeroes in on one particular family Parker managed to free from the Shrofe plantation. She builds tension by repeating simple action verbs: “Run, run”; “Row, row”; “Listen, listen.” Complicating this rescue attempt is the fact that Master Shrofe realizes the family nearly fled with Parker before. Knowing the mother will not leave her baby, he now keeps the infant the foot of his bed each night. Risking all, Parker quietly enters the house and retrieves the infant. Shrofe awakes, and the chase is on! The watercolor and collage illustrations capture the intensity of the story and provide historical context, at times using a ripple effect across people’s faces to evoke the river that forms a boundary and a passage to freedom.  Notes at the beginning and end of the book provide additional fascinating information, and endpapers show a useful map of the Ohio River. This superb picture book won the 2001 Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustrations.

John’s Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon by Doreen Rappaport. Hyperion, 2004. Ages 8-12. Another fabulous collaboration! See my October 1 post featuring this picture-book biography.

Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship by Nikki Giovanni. 2008. Ages 8-12. This book captures the unexpected friendship between two American leaders: the president and Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave but escaped in 1838 and became a key figure in the abolitionist movement. The men found they shared important values and worked for the same goal.

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport. Ages 6-10. If you have time for only one children’s book on Martin Luther King, Jr., make it this one. The focus is on King’s powerful words, enhanced with Collier’s magnificent illustrations. Provide plenty of time to discuss King’s life and the beauty and wisdom of his words. For lesson plans, see these from Read.Write.Think.

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Holt, 2005. Ages 7-10. Acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni portrays Rosa Parks as the strong, politically aware woman she was. She takes us back to that Thursday afternoon in December when Rosa left work. The bus was full, but Rosa found a seat in the middle, “neutral” section of the bus. After a few stops, the bus driver approached Rosa and demanded she give up her seat for white passengers. Mrs. Parks refused. When the police officer came to arrest her, she quietly asked, “Why do you push us around?” Collier’s painted collages, incorporating both dark and golden hues, won the 2004 Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor.

Uptown by Bryan Collier. Holt, 2000. Ages 6-8. Collier wrote and illustrated this lively picture book, in which a boy shows off his hometown, Harlem. A melange of sights, sounds and smells fills the pages: from the row of brownstones that “look like they’re made of chocolate” to the sisters in their matching Sunday dresses; from the busy shoppers on 125th Street to the hopping jazz clubs; from the playgrounds where kids shoot baskets to the hot platters of chicken and waffles. Collier’s debut book won the 2001 Coretta Scott King Honor for illustrations.

Related resource: See Reading Rockets: Black History Month for more teaching tips and for video interviews with noteworthy author/illustrators, including Collier.

Catch This Bus

Kittinger, Jo. S. Rosa’s Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights. Illus. by Steven Walker. Calkins Creek, 2010. Ages 6-9.

Many children’s books relate the story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to vacate her seat for a white man. This picture book, however, zooms in on the actual bus — #2867, which began its journey in 1948 on the assembly line in Michigan and ended up getting restored and displayed in the Henry Ford Museum in 2003. Kittinger keeps the story rolling along, undeterred by superfluous details. Walker’s colorful oil paintings, especially those of the bus, add to the kid appeal. After Rosa’s arrest, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the bus boycott, which “went on and on. No dimes jingle-jangled in the coin box. Day after day, week after week, month after month, Bus #2357 rode down the street with plenty of empty seats.” After 382 days, the boycott ended with the Supreme Court ruling that outlawed race-based discrimination. Use this book and the author’s suggested activities to enhance children’s understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and their appreciation of the perseverance of those who participated. The bibliography provides noteworthy sources for those who want more details.

Shelton, Paula Young. Child of the Civil Rights Movement. Illus. by Raul Colon. Schwartz & Wade, 2009. Ages 5-9.

This first-time author is a daughter of Civil Rights leader Andrew Young and a first-grade teacher, experiences that enrich her engaging, child-friendly true story. Using simple, rhythmic language, she describes how her family moves from New York to Atlanta to work for the end of “Jim Crow, / where whites could / but blacks could not”). Famous leaders in the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., are not cast as distant gods but as folks who ate and laughed and prayed together. Colón’s soft-colored pencil-and-wash illustrations evoke the affection shared among the activists. Children will laugh upon learning of Shelton’s first protest: She sat on the floor and wailed when a Holiday Inn restaurant in Atlanta refused to serve her family.  One aspect that particularly recommends this book to children is its hopeful, positive tone, with its emphasis on community and respect. The story’s triumphant end shows Paula and her family joining the world-changing march from Selma to Montgomery. A brief bibliography and biographical notes provide additional information.

Other Recommended Titles for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Leave a comment to share your favorite children’s book related to MLK!

Michelson, Richard.  As Good as Anybody:Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom. Illus. by Raul Colón. Knopf, 2008. Ages 6-10. Michelson provides an interesting perspective in this 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner. He focuses on two peaceful heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an ally, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Michelson invites readers to consider the parallels between the two leaders and their experiences. Both experienced hostility and prejudice in their homeland. Both overcame it with love, faith, and wisdom. Colón’s illustrations illuminate both the individual experiences (King’s story features an earthy palette, Heschel’s a blue one) and the similarities, as when he depicts the hateful signs that say “Whites Only” and then the ones proclaiming “No Jews Allowed.” In the final pages, the colors blend together, showcasing the diverse people who joined the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

Rappaport, Doreen. Martin’s Big Words. Jump at the Sun, 2001. Illus. by Bryan Collier. Ages 5-10. Rappaport weaves her own well-chosen words with those of King’s, resulting in a concise, poetic, and respectful picture-book biography of King. Teaming up with Collier was an inspired touch, as his amazing painted collages lend this book so much power and beauty. Martin’s Big Words won both the Coretta Scott King Honor and the Caldecott Honor for its stellar illustrations.

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