Review of Let the Children March

Let the Children March
by Monica Clark-Robinson; illus. by Frank Morrison
Primary     Houghton     40 pp.     g
1/18     978-0-544-70452-7     $16.99

For nearly a week in racially charged 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, hundreds of young people under the age of eighteen joined the Children’s Crusade and were harassed, beaten, and thrown in jail for their nonviolent protests against segregation. In a picture book based on these events, an unnamed girl takes readers through the African American community’s difficult decision to undertake the march, and the harrowing journey that followed. The decision to let the children march wasn’t an easy one for the adults to make. But as Martin Luther King Jr. said, it was ultimately agreed that the children were “doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and all mankind.” We follow the young girl as she marches in the face of hatred, with “Courage by [her] side”; witnesses her fellow marchers being attacked by dogs; and is jailed. She emerges to the news that desegregation will finally begin in Birmingham. A strong, poetic text (“We heard that the next day, and / the next, more kids marched. / The water hoses they used to sting us / could not stop our fierce tide”) is accompanied by remarkable oil paintings that capture the emotions on the faces of protesters and counter-protesters alike. While the last page hints at a rather rushed optimism about racial harmony, the art throughout is a vibrant representation of the determination and courage of the civil rights movement. A nuanced account that could inspire the youngest readers to make a big difference. Appended with an afterword, source notes, a timeline, and a brief bibliography.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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