Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.

love-will-see-you-through-9781416986935_lgLove Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs

Angela Farris Watkins, PhD., Author

Sally Wern Comport, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Nonfiction, Jan. 6, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 6-11

Themes: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Beliefs, Courage, Equality, Love, Nonviolence, Tolerance

Opening: ‘Martin Luther King Jr.  is recognized as one of the greatest men in history. I’m proud to say that he was also my uncle.”

Publisher Synopsis: The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals six timeless and universal principles that encompass the civil rights leader’s greatest legacy: Love will see you through. Growing up as the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Farris Watkins witnessed firsthand the principles and values that “Uncle M.L.” practiced and lived by throughout his fight for equality. Drawing from experiences and episodes both personal and well-known, Dr. Watkins artfully details the guiding beliefs of one of the greatest men in history. Including “have courage” and “love your enemies,” these six hallmarks of virtue and nonviolence reinforce the truth that “the universe honors love” and will inspire readers of all ages.

Why I like this book:

  • Dr. Angela Farris Watkins’ book is heartfelt and compelling. She shares with children the guiding beliefs that her uncle lived every day of his life.
  • The six beliefs are universal, inspirational and very easy for children to understand: Face adversity with Courage; Love your enemies; Fight the problem not the person who caused it; When innocent people are hurt, others are inspired to help; Resist violence of any kind; and the Universe honors love.
  • Watkins uses real events in King’s life (the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, the burning of his home, protesting segregation in Birmingham in 1963, his letter from the Birmingham jail, the voter registration drive in Selma) to emphasize the importance of how her uncle acted upon his beliefs of love and nonviolence. Her narrative is powerful and conversational.
  • Comport’s vivid double-page illustrations are strong and colorful mixed media collages that are compelling and capture the theme, tension and emotion of the book.
  • The book is an inspiring and excellent choice for school children to discuss during this particularly turbulent time in our history. Children will grasp that his beliefs are applicable to most any situation in life.

Favorite Passage: “Uncle Martin was a man of peace. Love was his way of life. Uncle Martin’s six guiding beliefs teach us that love has power. His life was proof that…Love Will See You Through.” 

Resources:  Check out the National Education Association website for classroom activities, tools and resources for children K-5. Many schools and communities will sponsor activities and walks on Martin Luther Kind Day, January 19. This would also be a good book to compare with Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus.

Angela Farris Watkins, PhD, is the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. She is an associate professor of psychology at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Watkins is a certified trainer of Kingian Nonviolence, the principles and steps of social change espoused by her uncle. Her books for children include My Uncle Martin’s Words for America; and My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart.

Sally Wern Comport has illustrated many picture books and novels, including Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure; Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up on Mt. Rushmore; and the Spy Mice series.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Personal Effects

Personal Effects9780763655273_p0_v1_s260x420Personal Effects

E. M. Kokie

Candlewick Press, Fiction,  Sept. 12, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 14-17

Themes:  War, Deployments, Dealing with Loss, Grief, Redemption

Synopsis:  Matt Foster is drowning in grief after his older brother, T.J., is killed in Iraq.   Matt has a rocky relationship with his father who is stoic and doesn’t know how to deal with his own feelings about T.J.’s death, let alone help Matt with his loss.  Matt has  a minefield of problems like failing classes,  getting into serious fights with kids, and expulsion from school.  When T.J.’s personal items are delivered by the military, his father stashes them away, daring Matt to go near them.   Shauna, his best friend, is the only person Matt confides in.  He fears his bully father, but knows that the only way he can understand what has happened to T.J. is by opening the sealed trunks without getting caught.  Matt finds stacks of letters T.J. has written to Celia Carson and photos.  At the very bottom is a letter sealed in an envelope to “Celia” that T.J. never got to send.  After reading each letter over and over, Matt decides he must travel from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to deliver the letter and photos to Celia.   Together with Shauna, they plot his trip, calculate the cost, find where Celia lives and her place of employment, and find a cheap place for Matt to stay.  Shauna loans Matt her car.  In searching for answers about his brother in Wisconsin, Matt discovers he doesn’t know T.J. at all.

Why I like this book:  E. M. Kokie has written a courageous and beautiful debut novel that is complicated and compelling.  She delves deeply into the anger, pain, and grief of a 17-year-old trying to make sense of his brother’s death.  Matt wants to know the truth so he can find closure.  It leads him on a journey where he uncovers shocking truths about his brother he never imagined.  What Matt learns challenges him to honor T.J.’s memory, stand up to his volatile father, and take charge of his own life.  In many ways it is also a coming of age book that includes his relationship with Shauna.  There is no tidy ending and this book is as real as it gets.  You won’t easily forget Matt.  It is definitely a book for kids in high school and young adults.   Visit E.M. Kokie at her website and learn more about this author who writes “about teens on the cusp of life-changing moments, exploring issues of identity and self-determination.”

SPOILER ALERT:  Thought it important to include a quote from the author E.M. Kokie: “I think it is important to note that many LGBTQ service members  who served under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” policy, including over 13,000 military personnel who were discharged.” Matt’s story about how his brother lived a secret life is not uncommon.  Yet, T.J.  was deployed three times, served honorably and was killed in an explosion.  Make sure you read the author’s note at the end of the book.

Nelson Mandela – Black History Month

Nelson Mandela9780061783746_p0_v1_s260x420Nelson Mandela

Kadir Nelson, Author and Illustrator

Katherine Tegen Books, Biography, Jan. 2, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Courage, Determination, Equality, Civil Rights,  Racism, Apartheid

Opening: Rolihlahla played barefooted on the grassy hills of Qunu.  He fought boys with sticks and shot birds with slingshots.  The smartest Madiba child of thirteen, he was the only one chosen for school.  His new teacher would not say his Xhosa name.  She called him Nelson instead.” 

Synopsis:  Nelson was nine years old when his father passed.  His mother sent him to live with a powerful tribal chief, where he could continue his studies.  He learned stories from the elders about old Africa, where people lived peacefully, the land was rich and fertile and people raised crops.  The European settlers arrived and everything changed.  Nelson attended school in Johannesburg where he became a lawyer who defended the poor.  The government began to divide the people into three groups — African, Indian and European.  The divisions were deep with Europeans in power, and apartheid was born.   Nelson wanted to win back South Africa for everyone and organized rallies to speak out and fight apartheid.  He became a leader among his people, but an enemy to the South African government.   He was arrested  and put in prison for over 27 years.  South Africa erupted into violence and the world put pressure on the government.  When Nelson was released from prison in 1990, he said “We must forget our terrible past and build a better future for South Africa.  Let us continue to fight for justice and walk the last mile to freedom.”  All South Africans had won their right to vote.  And, they elected Nelson Mandela their president.

What I like about this book:  The first thing you notice is that there is no title on the book.  Kadir Nelson’s larger than life oil  painting shows power, integrity, determination and strength.  It is mesmerizing.   The illustrations throughout the book are exquisite and capture the emotion of this very important time in South Africa’s history.  Because Nelson Mandela was a man of few words, the author tells the story very simply and powerfully in verse.  Kadir Nelson says: “My work is all about healing and giving people a sense of hope and nobility.  I want to show the strength and integrity of the human being and the human spirit.”  And, that he does. You can visit Kadir at his website.

Resources:  There are pages of historical information at the end of the book, with suggested readings.  For teaching resources and activities go to Mandela at 90.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride

Andrea Davis Pinkney, Author

Brian Pinkney, Illustrator

Disney Jump at the Sun Books, 2009, Historical Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

Themes:  Slave, Abolitionist, Feminist

Opening/Synopsis:  “She was big.  She was black.  She was so beautiful.  Her name was Sojourner.  Truth be told, she was meant for great things.   Meant for speaking.  Meant for preaching.  Meant for teaching the truth about freedom.  Big. Black. Beautiful. True.  That was Sojourner.”  Sojourner was born a slave  in New York in 1797.  Her parents named her Belle.  She was a valuable slave because she was six feet tall, with size-twelve feet and she was strong and worked hard.   She wanted her freedom and ran away.  She stumbled upon a Quaker family who were abolitionists.   The couple bought her freedom.   She  believed freedom belonged to everyone.  She set out to speak her truth and help others.  She changed her name to Sojourner Truth because she intended to spread the word about freedom and the unfair treatment of black people and women.  In 1851, she stormed a women’s rights convention in a church Akron, Ohio and smashed the lies that were spoken about women that day.  She spoke her truth and marched out of the church.

What I like this book:  It shows the strength and determination of a black woman who was born a slave, could not read or write, yet became a very strong voice for freedom and equal rights for women, before the civil war was even fought.  She let nothing get in her way.  Andrea Davis Pinkney has done a beautiful job of captivating the spirit of this remarkable woman.  The text has a unique and wonderful rhythm and evokes a lot of emotion.  The illustrations by Brian Pinkney, are spirited, bold and emotive.  Together they have created a very memorable picture book that belongs in every school library.  Sojourner  is a leader for young readers today.

Resources:  There are pages of historical information and resources about Sojourner Truth at the end of the book.  An abolitionist friend, Olive Gilbert, wrote a book about her in 1850, “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.”  There also is a photo of her meeting with President Abraham Lincoln on Oct. 29, 1864.   He signed her book.   There is a teacher lesson plan for Sojourner Truth with many great activities.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Operation Marriage – Perfect Picture Book

Operation Marriage

Cynthia Chin-Lee, Author

Lea Lyon, Illustrator

Reach and Teach and PM Press, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and Up

Themes:  Equality, Gay Parents, Difficulty for Children, Loving Families

Synopsis:  After school my best friend Zach said to me, “We can’t be best friends anymore.”  “Why not?”  “It’s your parents, Alex.  They’re…they’re not really married.”  “Of course they’re married,”  I said.  My face got red-hot.  “No, they’re not.  My dad says two women can’t be married.”  He dashed away.  Alex and Nicky are confused when they realize their parents had a commitment ceremony, but had not been able to get married at the time.  They tell Mama Lee and Mama Kathy that they want them to get married and start planning their “Operation Marriage,” campaign.  Because Proposition 8 might pass in California, their parents decide to get married in a church.  Alex is a bridesmaid, and Nicky is the ring bearer.  They shop for dressy clothing, flowers, and baked special foods.  Alex and Nicky get to invite two friends.  At school Alex shows her friends the wedding photos, including Zach.

The children live in San Francisco, and their mothers get married in 2008, when California briefly authorized same-sex marriages, then revoked the right with Proposition 8.  The author shows how difficult it was for children of gay parents.  I can only imagine how confused the children must have been with all the negativity they heard from kids at school, on television, and the signs that appeared in their neighborhood.  This book is such an honest and raw portrayal of one such loving and resilient family.  I highly recommend this book.  There are loving families everywhere that are not typical.  There are families with two Dads, or two Moms.  There are also families with single parents, and families where grandparents and aunts and uncles are raising the children.  They share one thing in common — love.

Why I like this book:  Based on a true story, Cynthia Chin-Lee has captivated the difficulties that children face living in a same-sex marriage family.  Lea Lyon’s illustrations are colorful, bold and evoke the emotion of the story.   What I found interesting was that this book involved a community.   The family depicted in the story was a member of First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto.  Cynthia invited the families and individuals from the church and from her neighborhood to come to church on a Sunday.   They all acted out the scenes from the book that happened in the church.  Lea photographed everything.  They went to Cynthia’s house to act out the rest of the book, with Lea directing and photographing.  Lea did pencil sketches of the scenes and author/publisher/illustrator worked together on the storyboard.  Lea painted (water-color) over the sketches and the team worked together to fine tune the book.  Their teamwork demonstrates how committed the author, illustrator and community were in publishing this book.   Their story was published in four Bay Area newspapers in the  Mercury News family.

Activity Resources:  Click on  What Makes a Family, and Celebrating our Own Families and Understanding Other Families.

For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.