December 9, 2017

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Be a King by Carole Boston Weatherford | SLJ Review

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redstarWEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You. illus. by James E. Ransome. 40p. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802723680.

K-Gr 3 –In this book inspired by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Weatherford and Ransome offer advice to a new generation of change-makers. In each spread, Weatherford repeats the refrain “You can be a King” and encourages young readers to continue Dr. King’s work by taking such actions as getting a good education, standing up to bullies, believing in important causes, doing one’s best, having a dream, and helping others. Each piece of advice alludes to Dr. King’s life, and in some cases, recalls his speeches and writing. Ransome’s art, rendered in acrylics, colored pencils, oils, and gouache, adds depth to the deceptively simple text. The illustrations alternate between full spreads depicting important events from Dr. King’s life and the civil rights movement and a contemporary classroom in white space, in which a diverse group of children paint a mural of Dr. King and prepare their own march for social justice. There is a shift in the style of the art here as well; the historical scenes maintain a serious tone, while the contemporary scenes evoke a more childlike quality. An author’s note provides a brief biography of Dr. King and also offers insight into both Weatherford’s text as well as many of the historical moments captured in Ransome’s illustrations. As such, while the book is accessible as an inspiring primer on social justice and taking action, it also challenges more sophisticated readers to make connections between the art, the text, Dr. King’s life, the civil rights movement at large, and the continuing struggle to affect change. VERDICT A first purchase, this book is sure to spark discussion and empower readers of all ages.–Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2017 issue.

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