In the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the concert the president is quoted as saying, “Dr. King himself once acknowledged that he didn’t see ‘the real meaning of the movement’ until he saw young people singing in the face of hostility." There are many picture books that introduce children to Martin Luther King, Jr., the African-American civil rights movement leader. His most famous speech, "I Have a Dream," given in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, is also the subject of many books.
Recently I had the chance to review a book about the civil rights movement, Dr. King's speech and the people who traveled to Washington to take part in the movement. The book, Riding to Washington, also introduces readers to two freedom songs that capture the spirit of the civil rights movement.
"Dr. King's speech sounded fine. The way he said it was just like music. But I wondered to myself: why is he telling me about his dream? What's it got to do with me." Riding to Washington by Gwenyth Swain, illustrated by David Geister
In the book Riding to Washington by Gwenyth Swain, a spunky young white girl named Janie describes her experiences as she rides on a bus from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C., and stands in the crowd watching Dr. King speak at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Her fellow passengers are black and white people from several different backgrounds. She encounters acts of discrimination when restaurants won't serve "mixed crowds" and a restroom door reads, "No Coloreds." In one particular eye-opening moment, she stands up for what is right and realizes that Dr. King's dreams pertains to all and that every individual has the power to bring about change.
A work of historical fiction, Riding to Washington is part of the Tales of Young American Series and provides a powerful depiction from an unusual perspective of the March on Washington. Swain's own father and grandfather both participated in the civil rights march and parts of the story are based on their memories. David Geister's well-researched period illustrations accurately show the clothing styles and buses found in the 1960's. His painting of the crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial is particularly awe-inspiring. Interestingly enough, all the illustrations and the text in the book focus not on Dr. King, but on the people that boarded the buses and attended the march. The book's text also highlights a couple freedom songs, "This Little Light of Mine" and "Get on Board, Children." An author's note on the last page provides some historical facts and details the inspiration behind the book. Because the book captures a snapshot of the 1960's, the wording in the book uses terms from this time period like "coloreds." The book would be appropriate for grades 1 and up and would work well for units on the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month.
Riding to Washington by Gwenyth Swain, illustrated by David Geister. Sleeping Bear Press; (December 2007); 40 pages; ISBN 9781585363247
Riding to Washington Teachers Guide
Gwenyth Swain - Author Website
David Geister - Illustrator Website
In celebration of Black History Month, we made mosaic accordion fan hearts for our stART project. First we made a scribble picture, drawing a continuous, entangled black line that loops all over the paper. Then we colored in some of the scribble shapes in black, leaving the rest white. We cut the drawing into a capsule shape, accordion folded it lengthwise, and then folded the accordion in half to make a heart shape. (Craft tutorial at On a Whimm). For more books appropriate for various ages that embrace Black History, see PBSParents Books that Bring the Black Experience to Life.
Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press, three (3) Brimful Curiosities readers will win a book of their choice from the six featured Black History month books shown, Riding to Washington, Let Them Play, Pappy's Handkerchief, D is for Drinking Gourd, The Listeners, or Friend on Freedom River.
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Book Source: Review copy provided by publisher. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)