Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Children's Book Review: Martin's Big Words
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Published by: Jump At the Sun, 2001
The Barnes & Noble Review
Acclaimed author Doreen Rappaport and Coretta Scott King Award winner Bryan Collier, who previously collaborated on Freedom River, have pooled their talents yet again in a stunning tribute to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An extraordinary picture-book biography, Martin's Big Words consists of Rappaport's own words interwoven with quotes from Dr. King...all powerfully brought to life by Collier's striking, glorious art.
Rappaport's spare, gripping text and Collier's distinctive collage-and-watercolor illustrations depict King's life journey with reverence and dignity -- beginning with his childhood experience of seeing "White Only" signs throughout his hometown, presenting his efforts as a civil rights crusader, and ending abruptly with his assassination. The front cover of the book immediately conveys King's power and spiritual strength, consisting entirely of a lifelike portrait of him -- the title and the author's and illustrator's names are relegated to the back cover. As Collier says in his illustrator's note, he "tried to push [the imagery] to an emotional level that allows the reader to bring his or her own experience to it, without actually losing the intensity or the intention of the story." His technique is utterly effective.
By using simple, direct language -- much of it King's -- the text offers young readers an accessible yet profound introduction to King's legacy. It explains that as a child, he listened to his minister father's "big words" and vowed to inspire others with such words when he grew up. The book's final sentence: "His big words are alive for us today," testifies to King's success -- and to the timeless importance of this great leader's ideals. As further inspiration for interested readers, Martin's Big Words includes a list of significant dates as well as a bibliography of resources for them to explore. (Jamie Levine)
* As a former elementary special education teacher, this was one of my favorite books to read to the kids to teach about Martin Luther King Jr. It's told very simply with King's quotes highlighted throughout the book along with collage like pictures. I find it simple enough for young children and can complement more fact-based narrative stories for older children. There is a time line of important dates at the end of the book too that can be helpful when reading with older kids. We read this last night in honor of Martin Luther King Day. My daughter has been hearing stories at school and has been telling me lots of facts that she's learned. She hadn't heard this story though and I was happy to read it with her since I enjoy it so much.
Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.