Friday, December 7, 2012

Martin & Mahalia: His Words and Her Song

by Andrea Davis Pinkney
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Little, Brown | August 2013
pre-order now!
(reviewed from galleys) 

Children's book living-legends and husband-and-wife team Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney come together again--this time for a glorious portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahalia Jackson. This gorgeous and spiritually-worded book begins with separate portrayals of the two subjects and then brings them together, mirroring their relationship in real life. The water color in the illustrations lend a softness and the India ink pen highlights a strength in the images.

Some words and phrases on each page are rendered in a bigger, sans-serif font, allowing for the reader's eye to focus in on what's most important on that page. The water-color-like color of those words keeps them clearly linked to the images. The story uses a metaphor of a road map to invite the reader in before the title page and carries the story along the path towards the Civil Rights era and the path toward a greater freedom for all in the United States. Ending with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the book is appended with an author's note, an illustrator's note, a list of further reading, a discography of Jackson's work, acknowledgements, and a time line.

This is a picture book, yes. But it is a fine example of why picture books are not always for the smallest readers. While a younger child might appreciate the images and could perhaps sit through an entire reading, this is the kind of book that is meant for older readers. This book invites kids as old as high-school to sit down and dive in. The illustrations add context and a fluidity to an understanding of the impact both King and Jackson had on United States history. This book shows with words and with pictures why the struggle was difficult, yet also vibrant and joyful. And while everyone has heard of King, is everyone familiar with the role Jackson played? I would guess: probably not.

The book opens: YOU ARE HERE. . . . Take the road. Come along. With Martin and Mahalia." I echo this first page. Get this book. Take the road the Pinkneys offer.

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