What Was the March on Washington?

What Was the March on WashingtonWhat Was the March on Washington? Written by Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Tim Tomkinson. Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013. 128 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 8 to 12. ISBN: 9780448462875.

I was five years old on August 28, 1963. I remember that my brother and I stayed with neighbors while my parents rode on a school bus from New Jersey to Washington DC. My brother, who was almost two, cried all night long and kept me awake. I was forced to eat a tomato at dinner. My parents came home and talked about how hard it was to sleep on a school bus and how hot it was in Washington. I thought they had done something very important by going to the March. I knew they enjoyed the camaraderie of the day, but they never told me anything about the speakers or the singers.

In reading “What Was the March on Washington?” I found out much more about the March. I now know about the meticulous planning that went into the March. I know about the people, 250,000 people arriving on bus after bus and train after train. I know the path the March took. I’ve always known that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March. But now I know all the other speakers and singers, and I know that Dr. King stopped reading from his speech and started speaking from his heart when he began talking about his dream.

Krull presents all this information very clearly. She starts by describing the racism that existed in this country at that time, and also the key events of the Civil Rights struggle before the March. After that she explains the extensive preparation for the March, undertaken by Randolph and by Bayard Rustin. She talks at length about the March itself, and then addresses the time after the March: the death of JFK, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the death of Dr. King.

In the middle of the book are 16 pages of black-and-white photos. The book has many black-and-white drawings, mostly of the people involved. It helps to have those images in one’s mind when reading about the people. At the end there’s a timeline and a bibliography.

The book is fun to read, and I’m so glad to know more about what my parents saw and heard while I was gagging on a tomato.

Blog Reviews:

Helen Foster James

I Have A Dream

I Have a Dream written by Martin Luther King, Jr.  Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012.  40 pages.  Recommended for all ages.  ISBN: 9780375958878.

Wow.  In 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most important speeches of the 20th century. It is entitled “I Have a Dream” and it was delivered as part of the March on Washington, a march in support of civil rights for African Americans. This book pairs the words of the last third of the speech with Kadir Nelson’s outstanding illustrations.

Nelson has won two Caldecott Honors, a Robert F. Sibert Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor Award.  In “I Have a Dream” he captures the power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Nelson includes two head shots of Dr. King.  The first is paired with “I have a dream today.” The second is paired with “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.” Both show the strength and intensity of Dr. King. Nelson also paints a two-page spread of a white hand and a black hand holding each other.  It’s hard to imagine a better way to visualize the meaning of the speech.

At the end of the book the entire speech is printed. The book also comes with a CD of the entire speech. It’s remarkable to listen to the speech on the CD, notice when the book begins to pick up the words of the speech, and continue to listen to the speech while reading the words and looking at the illustrations. It makes for a very powerful experience for one who was a child during the civil rights movement.

“I Have a Dream” is an excellent tool to open new generations of children to the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This book demonstrates that Dr. King’s power continues into the 21st century.

We March

We March written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans.  A Neal Porter Book.  Roaring Brook Press 2012.  32 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 4-8.  ISBN:9781596435391.

In August of 1963 250,000 marched on Washington to protest the unjust treatment of blacks in the United States. It was at the rally following the March that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.

The book follows a boy and a girl and their parents as they rise early, go to church to pray and make protest signs, take buses to Washington DC and march together, then stand with each other in a crowd of people and listen to a man talking about dreams.

The spare text and rich, simple drawings capture the excitement of the day without ever making clear that this day is the March on Washington.  In fact, a child who has not yet learned about the March on Washington from his or her parents or teachers will be drawn in by the excitement, and they will begin to understand the meaning of the day.

There’s a discussion of the day and its significance on the last page.  This seems to be meant for parents and teachers rather than for the kids who are reading the book.

“We March” captures the power of people working together with a only few words and a few pictures.