From R.E.A.D. staff
To be honest, when I read a new biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming out, I sighed and felt ho-hum. Don’t get me wrong. I believe Dr. King was one of the greatest people to have lived, but I’m always itching to read about new heroes whose stories have not been shared. Then I got my hands on a copy of Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, and boy was I WRONG! This book is unlike any other children’s biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ve read.
The story, written in verse, focuses on the last three months of Dr. King’s life, the part often tucked in at the end of other books right before his assassination on the motel balcony. Perhaps it’s easier to focus on Dr. King’s role in the civil rights movement and conclude with the passage of the Civil Rights Act because of the energy for change and triumphant win. Martin Rising highlights that although legislation for equal rights had passed four years earlier, the struggle continued for justice and equality for all people---a hard struggle, one that’s still evident today.
I love how Andrea Davis Pinkey captures the human side of Dr. King. His name alone—Dr. King—does not lend itself easily to a mere human, but Pinkney’s verse creates a picture of a man who’s doing his job, someone we can relate to: a man whose travel plans are canceled by weather, who struggles with doubt about fighting peacefully, who appreciates a clean motel room, who would rather stay in bed with fever than give one more speech. Her husband Brian Pinkney’s illustrations illuminate her words, right down to one picture showing him sitting with the feeling of flu written heavily on his face followed by the next one showing him tying his tie because he knows no matter how bad he feels people are depending on him.
The rich text, written in an emotional, deep cadence, offers so many layers to peel away with your child. You’ll find metaphors, alliteration, and onomatopoeia enlivening historical events. The author uses imagery accessible to children, especially in reference to calendar events. Hints of the stages of grief are revealed through the titles and grouping of the individual poems and prayers. And a Greek chorus in the voice of Henny Penny helps foreshadow events. Even the title is thoughtful, referring only to Martin Rising not Martin Luther King, Jr. Rising and choosing the word requiem because this beautifully illustrated book is truly a lyrical ode to a great human being.
Suggested ages: 9 and above