Monday, January 18, 2010

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

When I was around twelve or thirteen, my English literature teacher, Mr. Lovesy, decided that he would show us that beautiful language could be found in many places. He introduced us to Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream speech." It blew us away. Most of knew very little about Martin Luther King Jr. We were in an English school on the island of Cyprus and the English (as in from England) curriculum in the school did not include much American history. Many years later I moved to the United States and I began the process of learning about my new country. Reviewing children's books has given me the opportunity to learn a great deal about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Some of the books I have reviewed focus on one aspect of his life, while others look at the complete story of this extraordinary man. Here is my review of my favorite of these general books. 

Genius: Martin Luther King Jr.
Jennifer Fandel
For ages 10 to 14
The Creative Company, 2005   
ISBN: 978-1583413296
The son of a teacher and a pastor, Martin Luther King Jr. did not have to suffer many of the hardships that his father had had to endure. He had a comfortable home, plenty to eat, and he was able to get an education. But there was something that he did not have, something which no black person in the south had at that time. Martin did not have the same rights as white people. He lived in a society that was segregated and he had to accept that he was a lesser citizen who could not play where he wanted, who could not eat in the restaurant of his choice, and who could not sit at the front of the bus. He, like the millions of other black people living in the south, was a victim of segregation.
As he grew up Martin came to understand how cruel and unjust segregation was and he wanted to do what he could to bring it to an end. He worked hard to get a good education and he, like his father before him, became a pastor. Like his father too Martin knew in his heart that his people would never be able to give of their best if they were forced down by laws which kept them separate and decidedly unequal. So Martin set about working to get the laws repealed and in the end he gave his life for the struggle.
With wonderful period photographs, quotes, and a timeline at the bottom of the pages, this biography of Martin Luther King Jr. captures the essence of who Martin was and what he fought to do in his lifetime. Superbly written with poignancy and an obvious appreciation for the history of the times, this is a book which will help readers understand what made Martin Luther King Jr. such a world icon.
At the back of the book there is a “In His Words” section. Here readers will find the texts for two of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speeches: the one he gave in a high school in 1967, and the one he gave when he was presented with the Nobel Peach Prize in 1964.

You can see my other Martin Luther King Jr. children's book review here. 

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