Martin's Big Words
written by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Bryan Collier

Doreen Rappaport's Martin's Big Words
Award-winning illustrations by Bryan Collier

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

Martin's Big Words Lead to MLK's Big Thoughts

This book doesn't pull any punches. On the first page we see a young Martin Luther King Jr. asking his mother about a sign that says, "White Only".

Everywhere in Martin's hometown, he saw the signs.

We see Martin in church, a thoughtful child, beside his mother. He listens to the words his father preaches and reads the words of his bible intently.

When I grow up, I'm going to get big words, too.

Yes, he is. We learn that he studied also the writings of Gandhi.

Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.

Rappaport and Collier proceed to lead young readers on the journey Dr. King led an entire nation on, from Montgomery to Memphis, with much in between.

Bryan Collier's watercolor collages won him the 2002 Jane Addams Children's Book Award, the prestigious Caldecott Honor, as well as the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Honor for Martin's Big Words. Taking his inspiration from the stained glass of a church, his illustrations carry the appropriate solemnity for a great man who accomplished much and had his life taken from him. But, as the author reminds us

His big words are alive for us today.

At the back of the book are important dates in the life of Dr. King and, thanks to him, a nation. In addition, other children's books about King are listed.

This is not a joyous children's book. It's a biography, and it refers unflinchingly to the wrongs Dr. King had to confront. Notably, the pages within the book contain not a single person smiling. The book's sense of hope derives largely from Dr. King's broad smile on the front cover, a cover that contains precisely no words.

Martin's Big Words can't help but stand out from the other books on your child's shelf.

More children's books about Martin Luther King, Jr. 

More children's books about the black experience.

from two facing pages

More children's books featuring Christianity.

More award winners.

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