By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
by Richard Michelson (Author), Raul Colón (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 6-10
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
This is an incredibly moving and empowering book that delivers the story of two men from different cultures, an African-American Baptist minister and a Polish-born rabbi, whose lives aligned and came together for the cause of freedom (the civil right we all deserve): Martin Luther King Jr. and rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Author Richard Michelson (Busing Brewster) has sensibly condensed the story of how the two came together for the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. With sensitivity and elegance, Michelson has broken the story, a full color picture book, into two parts (one for each of the men) that transition smoothly. Although the two men grew up in different parts of the world, they both came from loving families that wished for a world full of peace.
“The way things are,” his father preached, “is not the way they always have to be. In the next world, people of all colors will live together and respect each other.”
Martin didn’t want to wait for the next world, but he couldn’t stay angry.
“Perhaps in the next world, people everywhere will live together in peace, ” [Abraham’s mother] cried.
Abraham held her close. … He didn’t want to wait for the next world. He wished he could help her now.
Colón has masterfully illustrated the book using colored pencil and watercolor, allowing him to add texture, depth and detail. The artwork is soft, but does not lack definition in facial expressions, hand gestures, and signage. He differentiates between the two halves of the story by using distinctly different hues. He says that he chose rich browns for King’s story, to evoke the warmth of the American South. Blue’s were selected for Heschel’s story because they reminded Colón of old movies about Europe in the World War II era. The colors blend for the final two pages and brighter hues are added to the palate, signifying the defining moment of unity .
“This too is God’s work,” Abraham told Martin. “I feel like my legs are praying.”
This is a gorgeous book that every person, young and old, should be able to read and feel hope, pride, empowerment, and respect. I loved it right down to the epilogue—I may have even shed a tear.
Add this book to your collection: As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom
You may also like: Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. Winner of the Horn Book award for Non Fiction in 2010.
Book list: 15 Excellent Civil Rights Books