This book took my breath away. Genuine goosebump time. If you're looking for a book to go with Martin Luther King Day or any time during Black History month, look no further.
Title: WE MARCH
Author/Illustrator: Shane W. Evans
(note his website doesn't appear to have been updated since 2006.
He set up a separate website for a book project called Olu's Dream
that he completed in 2009. We March is not on either website.)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2012 (MacMillan)
Themes: Civil Rights, African Americans
Opening: "The morning is quiet."
Why don't I give you more text? Because, except for one, each of the spreads in this 32 page book has five or fewer words on it. If I typed the first fifty words, I'd be posting the entire text!
Synopsis: An un-named African American family (father, mother, boy and girl) wake, visit their church and head by bus to Washington, D.C. and march to the Lincoln Memorial. While his name isn't mentioned in the text, Martin Luther King, Jr. is clearly recognizable and a partial quote from his "I Have a Dream" speech fills the background of the final spread. The author's note at the end of the book indicates that the book was based on the historic 1963 march but meant to represent all the organized marches when people have walked together to focus attention on a goal.
What I like about this book: The spare text and the muted tones in the illustrations are the perfect accompaniment for the subject of peaceful demonstration. As the story progresses, hints of a golden sun glow in the background until finally the sun is revealed behind Dr. King. The short sentences propel the story forward with a quiet energy that pulled me into the story. This book makes the subject of civil rights accessible to even the youngest readers. My only issue with the book is that in the illustrations the parents are always organized father/son and mother/daughter. I'm not sure why it bothered me, and perhaps this is an accurate portrayal of family life in 1963, but the separation distracted me. It doesn't take away from the powerful message, however.
Activities and Resources: There are no activity pages specific to this book, however the Southern Poverty Law Center has a civil rights activity book available for download courtesy of the Civil Rights Memorial Center. The University of Wisconsin also has an activity guide for kids on the topic of civil rights. I did feel that many of the activities were better for slightly older children than this book is targeted toward. There is an extensive amount of material available about African American history online and this post is obviously not meant to be exhaustive in this regard! The Family Education website has some civil rights figures coloring pages available for free download. Some of the other "free" sites asked for credit card information.
The Horn Book published a very personal profile of Mr. Evans written by his childhood friend, the author of "Chocolate Me", actor Taye Diggs. The author describes his 2009 book Olu's Dream on Youtube. The publisher, MacMillan has a slide show of 8 spreads from the book available for view. The book is a great jumping off point for any project involving kids who want to oppose the status quo. Perhaps you can make signs and organize a march on a topic important to them.
This review is part of PPBF (perfect
picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along
with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect
for stopping by! Happy Reading!