Review of March: Book One

lewis_march book 1star2 March: Book One
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by Nate Powell
Middle School, High School   Top Shelf Productions   128 pp.
8/13   978-1-60309-300-2   $14.95

Congressman John Lewis — the last surviving member of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders — recounts his formative years in this first volume of a planned trilogy. The book opens on “Bloody Sunday,” as troopers assail activists (including Lewis) marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. From this violently chaotic event the narrative fast-forwards to the early morning of Barack Obama’s January 2009 inauguration, where Lewis shares his memories with young visitors to his congressional office. Lewis’s path to nonviolence was shaped by two key events: the Montgomery Bus Boycott and a 1955 radio broadcast of Martin Luther King Jr. preaching “the Social Gospel.” While attending seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, John joined up with other young people fighting segregation with nonviolence to form the Nashville Student Movement. (A nifty example of art imitating life: the group was informed by a popular comic book of the time — Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.) There’s something extraordinary about reading a firsthand account of a seminal moment in history from one who not only lived through it but also led it, and this is what ultimately makes this book so essential. The volume is well-designed and the story expertly paced — the flashbacks and flash-forwards are especially effective at keeping things moving. Powell re-creates the time period vividly through his black-and-white art, but the artist’s true gift is in his ability to capture emotion with deft use of line and shadow. His nuanced visual storytelling complements Lewis’s account beautifully.

From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Sam Bloom
Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

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