It’s hard to imagine a more powerful introduction to the Civil Rights Movement than John Lewis’s graphic novel trilogy, March. Lewis’s leadership position in the movement gives him an insider’s view of the most important events, but March isn’t only about historical events: it’s also about how to live with integrity and meaning, how to make moral choices in deeply immoral circumstances. Lewis’s unfailing moral and ethical perspective is one of the great strengths of his story.
The second volume picks up where the first book left off and takes us to the church bombing in Birmingham. The major events here are the Freedom Rides through the South and the march on Washington, capped by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Freedom Rides are especially harrowing to read about. It is so difficult to understand such hatred, bigotry, violence, inhumanity. Once again, the story of the Civil Rights movement is intercut with scenes from the present that powerfully bring home the lessons of the Movement: Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore tackle a subject that’s dear to my heart in Prairie Dog Song. Roth’s incredibly vivid collages bring the grasslands to life, and the nonfiction text highlights the central role of prairie dogs, a keystone species essential for the health of the ecosystem. Each two-page collage introduces readers to the environment and the different species that interact with prairie dogs to ensure the health of the ecosystem (bison, golden eagles, black-footed ferrets, humans–whose intervention has been both devastating and healing).
I do wish some different choices had been made about the text, because I think the text limits the audience appeal. There is a lengthy nonfiction passage in smaller colored font that provides fascinating information, but the central text on each page is a rhyming, repetitive song about prairie dogs. The song would be suitable to the very youngest readers, though I’m not sure that even their attention would be held throughout, while the nonfiction text is written for much more mature readers. There is ample back matter with incredible photographs and a timeline for the creation of the Janos Grasslands in Mexico.
Marta Big and Small is a fine picture book with introductory Spanish. The reader learns the names of different animals in Spanish as well as different Spanish adjectives as Marta is compared to animals. For example, to the elephant, Marta is very small, but to the bug, she’s very big. A creative and clever way to incorporate a variety of vocabulary.
Lisa Graff’s It Is Not Time for Sleeping is really the perfect bedtime story. As a boy goes through different parts of his evening routine, it’s clear that he’s moving towards bedtime–but it is never quite time for sleeping. A beautifully rhythmic text with typically strong work from Lauren Castillo.
Rudas, Nino’s Horrendous Hermanitas is a companion to Yuyi Morales’s Nino Wrestles the World and definitely worth a look for fans of Nino, but I don’t think the story, text, or illustrations work nearly as well.
Little Elliot Big Fun is another sweet addition to Mike Curato’s series about a shy elephant and his much more outgoing best mouse friend. Elliot goes to the amusement park expecting to have so much fun, but in reality, he’s overwhelmed and frightened by the very things that are supposed to be enjoyable. Of course in the end, friendship prevails and Elliot and Mouse work things out.
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