Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MLK Day Read-alouds

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a big deal around here.We have a special section in the library devoted to books about him (because goodness knows there are a zillion books published about Dr. King), and teachers have been checking them out all week. Just in the nick of time, one of my book orders came in today with four new books that I couldn't wait to read and share. :)

Coretta Scott / poetry by Ntozake Shange, paintings by Kadir Nelson
published January 2009 by HarperCollins

I absolutely love the paintings in this book! I love how they take up an entire two-page spread and are vibrant and, in some cases, larger than life. You can see this by the cover alone. The poetry puzzled me. There is no punctuation, which frustrated me and had me stumbling over my words as I read it aloud to myself. The words per page are sparse and let the artwork tell the story too, which highlights Coretta's childhood, marriage, and key events in her life. I learned that she went to school to sing, and the last page has her and Martin singing together cheek by cheek, my favorite painting in the book. So pleased with this book and plan to share it with students when we study the Coretta Scott King Award.

My Uncle Martin's Big Heart by Angela Farris Watkins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
published October 2010 by Abrams

Yes, this book is written by one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s nieces. And that's what I love about it - its conversational tone and portrait of a man who we all know as someone who did Great and Important things for society but who she just knew as a loving uncle. Love the illustrations in this one too - similar style to Coretta, but what I like most is that many of them are ordinary. There's one of Uncle M.L. asleep on the couch (fully dressed and with shoes!), one hanging out in the backyard with all the kids, and another smiling as he sends a telegram. It's nice to see another side of him, one that isn't so solemn and serious (though of course there's some of that too). This would be a good choice to share with the little ones.

Martin Luther King Jr. by Joeming Dunn, illustrated by Chris Allen
published July 2008 by Magic Wagon

This book is part of a graphic novel biography series, but do not be fooled, it's not a graphic novel. Not in the sense of the word as I know it, at least. While the illustrations are drawn as comics, the story is narrated completely rather than being driven by dialogue. And it's not really a story either, as it's written very much like an informational book about Dr. King, with chapters for his education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, etc. That being said, I think this will appeal to students who wouldn't normally pick up a biography or any informational text, the students who read comics exclusively (and I have plenty of those), and who will read anything as long as it's shelved in the 741.5s. So now I have a dilemma - where do I shelve it?

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
published February 2010 by Little, Brown

Oh, how I love this book! I am just consistently amazed by the Pinkney family - they have talent oozing out of their ears, they really do. I think I may have cried when I first read this book. It's so powerful in such a quiet way. Sprinkling Dr. King's words throughout, we are told the story of the Greensboro Four, the first four black students to sit down at a whites only Woolworth's counter and ask to be served donuts and coffee. It tells the story of King's nonviolent, peaceful approach to affecting change, using the metaphor of baking bread. Brian's watercolor and India ink illustrations are a perfect match for this story, but I couldn't tell you why. Perhaps because of the contrast between the delicate watercolors and the harsh black lines - the rightness of blending the two to create something beautiful though not clearly defined. I also love the added material at the end - a Civil Rights timeline, a note from Andrea about her research, and a bibliography of books and websites (selected by ALSC!) to consult "for further enjoyment." Gush gush gush. I love it. Definitely use it with 4th/5th grade students - and be surprised by the great discussions you will have.



Jan von Harz said...

Ah the joys of being a librarian and getting to pick great picture books to turn young readers on. All these books sound like excellent books to provide students with the full scope of such an amazing human being. Thanks for sharing.

Peaceful Reader said...

What a great post. I have three of these books but not the graphic biography. These is always a tough call; where to shelve biographies in general-by topic or in 921 so this one adds a new twist. Maybe it will get read more in 741.5. My students are in love with all things graphic as well!

melanie said...

Awesome reviews/recommendations! Sit-In is now on my hold list, after such praise. Thanks for talking about these books.

BookBlogFun said...

I love the SIT-IN.

~ Lauri Chandler

Kristen said...

All of our teachers love the movie Our Friend Martin. I don't think we have all of those books listed, so I will have to look into them.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

What a great list! Makes me wish I'd done something yesterday...

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