Written By: Barry Wittenstein
Illustrated by: Jerry Pinkney
For Ages: 7 years and up
Topics Covered: Modern Black Freedom Struggle, Civil Rights, Historical Figures, Black Culture & Identity, Activism, American History.
This picture book, aimed at slightly older readers, covers the night before and day of the infamous ‘I Have a Dream” speech that Martin Luther King Jr gave at the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963. Martin sits in his hotel room with advisors, making finishing touches to the speech he’s due to give the next day.
I love the way that this book brings in many voices from the movement and how they were integral to the making of this well-documented moment of history. Something I dislike about a lot of the narratives surrounding this particular decade of the Black freedom struggle is the way that it’s simplified. Even talking about the fact that MLK had advisors to help write his speeches is something I haven’t seen in children’s books, much less naming the key people involved.
I adore the way Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations convey such movement, and this work is no different. He also labels the historical figures throughout the book, which is so incredibly helpful. The story reads as a peek inside MLK’s mind while writing and rewriting and finally ad-libbing the epic “I have a dream” part of his speech at the encouragement of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. The book walks the fine line of cautious hope and recognition of so much farther to go, and doesn’t shy away from the violence that Black protestors faced (and continue to face) while demanding equitable treatment. In the back are extensive author & illustrator notes, information about King’s advisors, as well as the other speakers from the March on Washington. It has been and will continue to be a fight, but we can’t give up now.
Barry Wittenstein is the author of several picture books, including Waiting for Pumpsie and The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really). He is pursuing a Masters in Childhood Education at Hunter College and lives in New York City.
A native of Philadelphia, Jerry Pinkney studied at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) where, in 1992, he received the Alumni Award. He has been illustrating children’s books since 1964, illustrating over one hundred titles. His books have been translated into sixteen languages and published in fourteen countries, and he has been the recipient of a Caldecott Medal, five Caldecott Honors, and five New York Times “Best Illustrated Books.” He has received five Coretta Scott King Awards, and four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards. Furthermore, he has received numerous awards for his body of work. In 2003, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University; in 2010, the Doctorate of Fine Arts, honoris causa from the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster, PA; and in 2012, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in New York. Jerry was also a United States nominee for the l997 Hans Christian Andersen Illustration Medal, recognizing those whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Arts Award at the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Pennsylvania. The Society of Illustrators in New York, NY has presented Jerry with four gold medals, four silver medals, the Hamilton King Award, and in 2006, their Original Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011, he was elected into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.