My Brother Martin
by Christine King Farris
My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris.
Illustrated by Chris Soentpiet.
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2003.
In time both for the observance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, as well as for Black History Month, this delightful book makes a distinctive contribution to the many volumes devoted to Dr. King's life.
Written by his sister, the sole surviving sibling of the original three children, this picture book offers a cozy introduction to Dr. King that removes him from the pedestal as an iconic figure, and restores a refreshing human dimension that would engage young readers. I imagine that this book would work best as a read-aloud for second and third graders, whether at home or in a classroom setting.
Farris, herself an associate professor of education and director of the Learning Resource Center at Spelman College, describes a childhood remarkable both for the compelling presence of an extended family (devoted grandparents and aunt, who were strong influences on the King children) and for its relative innocence despite the undeniable racism and segregation of Jim Crow South.
There are charming anecdotes of childhood pranks, like scaring the neighbors with their grandmother's realistic fur piece, or loosening the legs of the piano bench so that the piano teacher came crashing down when he sat there. There are evocative descriptions of hearing family stories from their grandmother and aunt, and recollections of memorable dinners gathered around the expansive table. And there are less pleasant episodes as well, like the time their white playmates told the young Martin and his brother that they couldn't play with them anymore because they were black, or when a shoe salesman wouldn't serve Martin and his father unless they went to the back of the store (no surprise that the elder Dr. King took his business elsewhere).
Farris includes a story that prefigures just how significant Dr. King's leadership would ultimately become. After the white children had shunned young Martin, and he asked his mother why "white people treat colored people so mean", her answer, "Because they just don't understand that everyone is the same, but someday, it will be better," triggered his prophetic response. Martin told his mother, "one day, I'm going to turn this world upside down."
And so he did. And perhaps this glimpse of the young Dr. King as a child-not a saint or extraordinary youngster-will inspire similar bold dreams.#
See our interview with the author. ****Link This Rick*****