Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review: Child of the Civil Rights Movement

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colon. Grades 2-5. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010. Copy provided by my local library.

Paula Young was a preschooler when her family moved from New York to Georgia so her father, Andrew Young, could help Martin Luther King, Jr. with the fight for civil rights. This picture book provides a first-hand look at what it was like to be a child at this time. Not just a child, but a child who couldn't eat at certain restaurants even though she was hungry. A child whose father was repeatedly arrested for breaking ridiculously unfair laws or even just for peacefully protesting.

Paula hid under the kitchen table while smart people discussed methods of protesting unfair laws. She swam at the local YMCA (one of the only pools in Atlanta that allowed people of color in) with her "Uncle Martin". And her story, told in the first person, gives kids a unique viewpoint into the fight for civil rights.

Paula ends her story by saying this:

And one day, when Mama and Daddy were too tired to march, too weary to carry us on their shoulder, too exhausted to fight another battle, the baton would pass to us and we would march on - children of the civil rights movement.

The book goes on to include brief biographical information about some of the people mentioned - Andrew Young, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Randolph Blackwell, Dorothy Cotton, James Orange, and Hosea Williams. The author also includes a bibliography.

While the book doesn't give a whole lot of historical information about civil rights, what I love about it is that it gives a sense of the time and the struggle as perceived by a young child. Ms. Stenton obviously writes about the incidents she remembers - a traumatic event at a restaurant, swimming with a family friend, participating in a march with her family. These are activities that any child might remember had she experienced it and that's what makes it accessible to kids. Reading the book and looking at the beautiful illustrations, you get a sense of the time.

It's not the first book I'd hand a child looking to write a report on the Civil Rights Movement, but it is a book I'd hand to a child looking to understand what it felt like to be there. Pair it with Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and add it to your units on American History, Civil Rights, and/or Black History.

 It's Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to The Art of Irreverence for the roundup!