Monday, October 14, 2013
I See the Promised Land, with text by Arthur Flowers and art by Manu Chitrakar. Groundwood Books, 2013. $18.95 ages 14 and up
"This is the world into which Martin Luther King was born. THIS WORLD THAT PROVIDE THE CALL HE COME TO ANSWER. Young Martin is expected to follow in the august footsteps of his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist, BUT DESTINY CALL IN THE GUISE OF THE MONTGOMERY BOYCOTT."
This is a picture book biography that is sure to enlighten and engage young adult readers in Martin Luther King and his life story. The blurb on the back cover explains that it is told in the narrative style of Dr. King's African ancestry...the griot tradition of historian that combines the talents of bard, storyteller, praise singer and commentator. It makes the book sing with words, sounds, rhythm and feeling:
"I HAVE BEGUN THE STRUGGLE AND I CAN'T TURN BACK.
I'VE REACHED THE POINT OF NO RETURN.
At the mass meetings he kept the
good colored folk of Montgomery
TOLD THEM A MAN CAN'T
RIDE YOU UNLESS YOUR
BACK IS BENT.
TOLD THEM WE WON'T
STOP UNTIL WE'VE WON
OUR FULL FREEDOM IN
AND REDEEMED THE
SOUL OF AMERICA.
Note that move now, that redeem
the soul of America bit. That little
bit of ideological orchestration.
THIS WHAT MAKE MARTIN
LUTHER KING SPECIAL."
Who wouldn't be enticed by such a telling? If you have readers who want to know more about Dr. King, his work and his legacy, this book is a striking example of the best in what is available to young readers today. The bright drawings, outlined in black and showing the cruelty of the lives so many were living and the many unconscionable acts of racism against them will unsettle some readers, and inform every single person who shares this book. They are surely representative of the events of the Civil Rights movement.
I read, then reread it more slowly out loud, taking time to pause where the author slows down the telling, requiring his readers to stop and think, and consider the implications of what he wants his audience to take from reading his words. Martin Luther King did not take the path planned for him. He chose a much more difficult one, as leader and speaker for those who were seeking equal rights. He spoke eloquently to them and on their behalf:
"If we protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in the future, somebody will have to say 'There lived a race of people, of black people, of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and civilization."
He faced the many difficulties with courage, strength and determination that life would be better for all people. He was not a perfect man, and Arthur Flowers acknowledges that in the text. It does not change the fact that Martin Luther King gave inspiring speeches that influenced history and helped to bring about necessary change.
Unusual, informative, original and inspiring in design, this book is worthy of your attention, and sure to be a hit with young adults with an interest in history, making a difference and the man himself.