Monday, January 21, 2013

Best Picture Books about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King has been on my mind of late.  Now that I am working as a full-time children's librarian, I was excited to organize a program for our family storytime in his honor.  Since it happened that the program fell on his actual birthday, February 15, rather than the federal holiday, we read--and acted out--picture books about him, and sang Happy Birthday and instead of having cake, tasted his favorite dessert, pecan pie (served up in very small servings in cupcake liners!).  The program turned into a family occasion, as my banjo-playing mother-in-law and my teenaged son came to teach the children and adults some of the iconic civil rights protest songs:  We Shall Overcome, We Shall Not be Moved, and This Little Light of Mine.

There's a rich variety of books available on Dr. King, aimed at all ages, yet it was not difficult to choose which books I wanted to highlight.  Here are some of my favorites, although I was not able to read them all at the storytime.

I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Schwartz & Wade, 2012).  Kadir Nelson has outdone himself with the magnificent oil paintings he produced to illustrate some of the most iconic excerpts from Dr. King's most famous speech (the complete text is included in the back of the book, as is a CD with Dr. King delivering the address).  This is a book that should be in every American classroom and library.  The dignified and statuesque artwork, combined with Dr. King's inspirational language, cannot fail to move anyone who sees and reads this book.

Martin's Big Words:  The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Hyperion, 2001).  In a book suitable for kindergartners on up, Rappaport brings Dr. King's career to life using simple but eloquent language and Dr. King's own powerful words, taken from various speeches and letters from throughout his lifetime.  Combined with outstanding artwork by Bryan Collier, her text is perfect for reader's theatre; at my own program, three children read the words of Dr. King and I read the narrator part, making a very moving small piece of drama perfect for the classroom or library storytime.

My Uncle Martin's Big Heart, by Angela Farris, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Abrams, 2010).  This warm-hearted picture book tells Dr. King's life told from the perspective of his young niece.  Dr. King comes through as a family man, Uncle M.L. who loved to laugh, not just an icon of the Civil Rights movement.

My Brother Martin:  A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Christine King Farris (Simon & Schuster, 2003).  In this outstanding book written by King's older sister, we see Martin Luther King as a mischievous young boy, not wanting to practice the piano, surrounded by a warm and loving well-educated family who tried to shield their children from the worst of segregation.  Dr. King's father, stood up to the worst of the bigotry of that time, and the young King learns the importance of standing up for justice and equality.  A powerful book that can be easily understood by elementary school-aged children.


Books4Learning said...

Thanks for these suggestions. I like Collier's and Nelson's books. I will check these out at my library. The picture in both look fantastic to go with the great man's story.

PragmaticMom said...

You have the best suggestions! I love Martin's Big Words but now need to check out the other books!