Review of Because of You, John Lewis: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship

Because of You, John Lewis: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship Because of You, John Lewis: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illus. by Keith Henry Brown
Intermediate    Scholastic    40 pp.    g
3/22    978-1-338-75908-2    $18.99

What could have been a straightforward story of a boy meeting his idol becomes in Pinkney’s (Martin Rising, rev. 3/18; Loretta Little Looks Back, rev. 11/20) skilled hands a tapestry of intertwined stories looking back to the past and forward to the future. Pinkney introduces Tybre Faw, who as a great admirer of civil rights icon John Lewis attends one of the annual marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which leads to a life-changing meeting with Lewis. Interwoven is the parallel story of John Lewis, who as a young man wrote Dr. Martin Luther King a letter, which led to a life-changing meeting, a lifelong friendship, a life’s work. And just as, after Dr. King’s death, Lewis was left to “carry on Martin’s dream for peace. / To stitch the seams / of his legacy,” so “legacy’s threads” will stitch in Faw’s hopes and bright promise. Pinkney’s free-verse text skillfully reinforces the connections between Faw and Lewis, using similar language to introduce them (“When you’re a kid from / Johnson City, Tennessee…When you’re a boy / in Troy, Alabama”) or describe galvanizing incidents (Faw reading about Lewis’s activism “lights his dream on fire”; Lewis hearing Dr. King’s voice on the radio “lit a light in John’s heart”). The telescoping nature of the narratives—starting with Faw and looking back to Lewis and King and thence to “Harriet, Frederick, Sojourner, Du Bois”—encourages young readers to acknowledge the shoulders of giants each generation stands on and to themselves work toward “a brighter tomorrow.” Brown’s (Birth of the Cool, rev. 5/19) watercolor and pen art is emotive and introspective, focusing on character and connection rather than on events or action. Appended with a lengthy author’s note, a timeline of the life of Rep. John Lewis, photographs, and the text of the poem “Invictus” read by Tybre Faw at Lewis’s funeral.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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