Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Day: books for young readers

Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Americans celebrate this day not just as a holiday, but as a day of service to think about ways in which we can all make this country better. Here are books for parents to share with young readers who want to learn more about Dr. King, including two books by his sister Christine King Farris. Locate copies using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr., by Jean Marzollo; illustrated by J. Pinkney (Scholastic). An eloquent and powerful introduction to the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. This simplified summation leaves out most of the details, while bringing the essence of his life and work to young readers. A foreword offers options for softening the facts surrounding his murder for preschoolers. Pinkney's scratchboard and oil pastel illustrations convey both the strength and gentleness of King's character. Both text and art carry his central message of peace and brotherhood among all people. This is a good choice for reading aloud. Adler'sPicture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Holiday, 1989) covers the same material with more detail. --Eunice Weech, Amazon

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Christine King Farris; illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Aladdin). Farris recalls the birth of her two younger brothers and relates anecdotes that demonstrate both the mischievous exploits of the siblings and the love and understanding that permeated the close-knit multigenerational family in which they grew up. Using plain language, she describes conditions in the South during her childhood that separated blacks and whites- "Because they just don't understand that everyone is the same, but someday, it will be better." From their father's church sermons and his actions when confronting the hatred and bigotry, the children learned the importance of standing up for justice and equality. The warmth of the text is exquisitely echoed in Soentpiet's realistic, light-filled watercolor portraits set in the King home, in their Atlanta neighborhood, and at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The simple directness of this short biography will help young children understand the concept of segregation and the importance of Dr. King's message -- Susan Schleps, Amazon

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, by Christine King Farris; illustrated by London Ladd (Scholastic). Although he is depicted as older and more serious than the mischievous little boy portrayed in My Brother Martin, Farris's unique perspective on her subject continues to be compelling. She concentrates on the march and the effects of the speech. Some phrases in the text are printed in a larger font and in color, emphasizing important aspects and establishing an appealing rhythm for reading aloud. Ladd's acrylic paintings are an excellent accompaniment to the text. His use of color and varying perspectives creates a great deal of visual energy, extending the excitement of the event. An informative addition.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, Amazon

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr., by David A. Adler; illustrated by Robert Casilla (Holiday House). Adler examines King's family background, leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott, and the 1963 march on Washington, D.C. By focusing primarily on these events, Adler provides young readers with enough basic information to form a well-rounded picture of King and his ideals. However, the outstanding feature of this book is the vivid watercolor illustrations, which are sure to capture readers' attention. Casilla dramatically reveals the mood and feelings of the era. A fine introduction to King and the freedom movement, and one that would be equally useful for storyhour and discussion groups. --Jeanette Lambert, Amazon

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., by Johnny Ray Moore; illustrated by Amy Wummer (Ideals Publishing) Parents quite often want to begin to teach their children about important aspects of history and culture even at the earliest of ages. This book is the perfect avenue through which parents can begin teaching their children about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Moore has done a superb job in writing a biography that is short, concise and easy to understand. Even children with the shortest of attention spans can enjoy and understand this book. Friendly illustrations will make this book even more pleasurable for children. The boardbook format of this book makes it easy for children to handle the book and even turn the pages without parents having to worry about the book being damaged.--Stacey Seay, Amazon

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