Monday, January 19, 2015

MMGM: Martin Luther King Day books

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Alas, I had plans to highlight the new Christopher Paul Curtis book today, but it’s been a busy week getting ready for the Darcy Pattison retreat. So, although I haven’t finished Curtis’ book yet, that post is in the works. So, today, I’m going to do  a “best of” post and point to some of my favorite books I reviewed last year, particularly books which deal with racism and/or civil rights.

What I love about all these books is that the Civil Rights movement and/or racism are told through the eyes of a child. We, as readers, get to experience their "awakening" to injustice right alongside them and their heartache when parents or trusted adults don't see things the same way.

Click on the titles to go to my initial feature and a longer review.

--This book is the most accessible to younger readers. It has the least amount of violence of all the books I’m highlighting here. Glory also has the youngest-sounding voice. If you have younger students or children, this would be a good first look at the Civil Rights movement/segregation. Glory's character and voice are so endearing, it’s hard not to love her.

--This is the only “new” book or previously reviewed book on my list. I read this last year, after GLORY BE, and at first, didn’t like it as well. It’s definitely for an older audience as it has more middle school issues. What I loved: the friendship between Marlee and Liz, Marlee's giftedness at math,  and the honest portrayal of Marlee’s mother’s racism and her subsequent growth as a character. This book is more in depth than Glory B, is darker in tone, but it also tells the story of two brave girls trying to change the world.

Caveat: Unfortunately, the n word is used in this book.

--This is not a new book (1995), but it is one of my favorites about this time period. Kenny, like Glory and Marlee, is just awakening to what’s going on in his country. He and his family have been living in Michigan, but when they travel south to Birmingham, he learns firsthand about segregation and church bombings.  What I love about this book is its humor and the quirky and loveable Watson family. I don’t think there are parents in literature I love as much as the Watsons.

*The movie of the book is on Netflix right now. I liked how it kept to the story of the book, but added more about segregation and the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham.

This won the Newberry Honor last year, and it was well-deserved. What I loved about this book is its theme of seeing beyond the surface. The Civil Rights movement is more in the background than the other books I’ve featured here. It’s more about the narrator’s finding a touch point with his African-American maid. Yes, he awakens to her plight, but it’s more about how her strength in the face of adversity helps him to deal with his stuttering.

This book is not about the Civil Rights movement. It takes place earlier, in the 1930s, and it one of the finest books I’ve read on racism. Though it takes place well before the Martin Luther King era, it shows why the Civil Rights movement had to happen. This is perhaps the most violent of all the books I’ve featured, but it is the most unflinching in portraying how things truly were for African-Americans.  I felt like I was awakened to the depths of the injustice in Cassie’s world along with her. A must read.

What are your favorite books about Civil Rights?

Stay tuned for a post about the Darcy Pattison retreat in the next few weeks.

If you're looking for Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.


  1. Great book choices. And so excited for you that you're going to a Darcy Pattision retreat. They sound fantastic!

  2. Super list. I'm sharing this one. THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD are the first books I ever read with a civil rights theme.

  3. I didn't realize there were so many books on the subject.

  4. That's quite a list. Kill a Mockingbird was the first I've ever book read about the civil rights issues. I confess, I haven't read many books on the subject.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  5. Thanks for choosing these! I haven't heard of a few. It's so true how events look so different through the eyes of a child.

  6. This is a really good list. My all-time favorite has to be To Kill a Mockingbird. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. great list. I'm with Rosi and Greg as far as To Kill a Mockingbird goes...

  8. Thank you everyone for stopping by! It sounds like I really do need to check out To Kill a Mockingbird. Can you believe I've never read it? It's definitely on my list of classics to tackle this year.

  9. I haven't read any of these. *gasp* Maybe I need to go remedy that. Truthfully, I haven't read that many books about civil rights. Two subjects I tend to blacklist are ones dealing with slavery and the holocaust. They kill me.

    1. I have a really hard time reading or watching anything violent, but these books were okay with me. ROLL OF THUNDER, while not about slavery, is definitely the most violent, but it's necessary to the story. Like Schindler's List, I probably won't read it twice, but it was so eye-opening, it was well worth the read.

  10. I really like the sound of Glory Be and Paperboy. And Glory Be's cover is pretty perfect w/that round sun and the silhouettes. Silhouettes always get me! =)

  11. Very cool, and perfect for today. Thank you for sharing these!