My favorite reading challenge is Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Visit her blog to discover more wonderful nonfiction titles.
Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down uses free verse to tell the story of four courageous African-American college students whose peaceful protest at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina sparked a national movement of sit-ins. The four students politely seat themselves at the “Whites Only” counter and order “a doughnut and coffee, cream on the side.” They are not served, so they return the next day and repeat their order. No matter what response they receive from whites who don’t want integration, the students remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and stick to their plan of nonviolent protest. I found the depiction of the students’ calm, dignified response to hatred and abuse particularly moving.
Pinkney’s free verse works well. She uses repetition and metaphor extensively and effectively, which also makes this a strong mentor text for the writing classroom. (Though I will confess to tiring of the endless food-related word choices and metaphors by the end.) The book’s main purpose may be to convey information and tell a particular story from history, but Pinkney never forgets that she is also creating a work of art through her writing.
And the illustrations are terrific. Brian Pinkey’s loose style brings the story to life. Many of the illustrations depict people sitting quietly at a lunch counter, which doesn’t sound very exciting visually, but Pinkney’s drawings convey so much movement and energy. It was also refreshing to see so much color in a picture book about the Civil Rights Movement. So often I feel like illustrators try to convey the significance and seriousness of stories about the Civil Rights Movement with a muted and somber palette, which may not be as visually appealing to most readers as a more colorful book. Sit-In is ultimately a celebration of these students and of the Civil Rights Movement itself, and Pinkney brilliantly shows that through his art.