The Bookworm Sez 1-18-10 | TheFencePost.com
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The Bookworm Sez 1-18-10

Terri Schlichenmeyer
LaCrosse, Wis.

Where is your favorite place to play?

If you enjoy going to the park, you might love the swings and going as high as you can. Some kids can’t get enough of the merry-go-round because they like being dizzy. And the monkey bars, well, you know they’re not just for climbing.

But what if you couldn’t play there? What if you couldn’t go to your school or eat at a certain restaurant, just because of the color of your skin? Things like that happened many years ago, and in the new book “Martin Luther King Jr. (My First Biography)” by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Jamie Smith, you’ll see what happened to change all that.

First of all, you might wonder why we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. His birthday is in January, but that’s only part of the reason …

When Martin Luther King was a little boy, things were different than they are now. Kids with dark skin like his couldn’t go to school with white children, no matter what. It just wasn’t allowed.

African-American kids couldn’t play in the same parks or eat in the same restaurants, either. And if they were thirsty, they had to find a separate water fountain because the bubblers for white people were forbidden to black children.

But young Martin’s mother told him that he was just as good as anybody, and he believed it. It made him want to grow up and change the world by spreading that message to other people.

And those words – “You’re just as good as anybody” – made people strong enough to show that they belonged at lunch counters, bus seats, schools, water fountains and other places where they weren’t allowed to go before. It made people so strong that laws were changed.

So that’s why you go to school with kids from all different kinds of families. That’s why you see children from all races at your favorite parks and playgrounds. Dr. King’s bravery and belief in himself are why anybody can sit anywhere they want on a bus, eat in any restaurant they like and drink from any water fountain that works.

And that is why we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On my first read-through of “Martin Luther King Jr. (My First Biography),” I noticed something I liked. The words by author Marion Dane Bauer were, like any good early-reader book, spare and succinct with just enough information for its audience. But that wasn’t what caught my eye.

What made me look again were the pictures. Illustrator Jamie Smith created a portrait of 45 years ago, but with subtle modernization; people, fashions, and backgrounds look contemporary but quietly evoke a different era. Kids probably won’t overtly notice, but these details should give them a better feel for what happened, allowing them to more identify with the story.

Despite that this is one of the slimmest books I’ve ever reviewed, I highly recommend it. For kids ages 5-8, “Martin Luther King Jr. (My First Biography)” is a dream of a book.


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