Following My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart (2010), this effort focuses more on King’s work to end segregation than his life as a family man.
Explaining Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights movement to a very young audience is not easy, but Watkins and Velasquez rise to the challenge with grace and warmth. Using a childlike voice, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece simply and clearly emphasizes themes of love, nonviolence, freedom and equality. The repetitive text instills the message “people listened, and things changed” and focuses on the positive. While the prejudice and violence of segregation is broached, such as when King’s home is bombed with his wife and baby daughter inside, the intensity and extent of that violence is omitted. The result is a condensed introduction to this moment in American history and to the man who made great changes using words, not violence. Rich, expressive illustrations depict some scenes from the Civil Rights movement that many adults will find familiar. The artist gives the images his own style of realism lightened by warm colors and soft lines. Author's and illustrator's notes are followed by a chart outlining King’s work and the resulting outcomes.Though picture books about Dr. King by his family members and others abound, this stands out for its graceful, age-appropriate treatment of the Movement. (glossary, bibliography, books for young readers, index) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)