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Review of Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King
by Andrea Davis Pinkney; 
illus. by Brian Pinkney
Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    128 pp.
1/18    978-0-545-70253-9    $19.99

A creative poetic celebration of the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. that also, as a song for the dead, includes a meticulous explanation of how and why he died. Henny Penny (the bird who declares “the sky is falling!”) helps to tell this dirge, appearing periodically in interspersed poems to encourage questions, forecast the future, and reflect on the focal story (she is, per the appended author’s note, “the Greek chorus in this play. She is a protector, 
a mother bird, a knower”). The first poem about King tells of his January 
1929 birth and describes him as a “sparkling-eyed child,” harking back to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s dialect poem, “Little Brown Baby,” about a well-loved child “wif spa’klin’ eyes.” After establishing the characteristics Martin possessed even in childhood that would compel him to fight Jim Crow oppression, the narrative jumps to his thirty-ninth birthday celebration, and the rest of the lyrical text details what transpired between February 1968, when sanitation workers went on strike in Memphis, and April 1968, when King was assassinated and mourned. Accompanying the varied and intense poetry, Brian Pinkney’s swirling watercolor, gouache, and India ink illustrations give life and movement to King’s story and reflect the complex emotions (and accompanying turbulent weather) that surface throughout this biography. Rich back matter, accompanied by documentary photographs, will serve as excellent research resources for locating more information on the civil rights movement.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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