Review of Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis

asim_preaching-to-the-chickensPreaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
by Jabari Asim; illus. by E. B. Lewis
Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.
10/16    978-0-399-16856-7    $16.99    g

John Lewis, longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was a member of the “Big Six” during the 1963 March on Washington and went on to solidify his place in history on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. But who was he before that? He was a farm boy from southern Alabama, as described in Asim’s conversational text. While his father plowed the fields and his mother cooked food from her garden, John raised his beloved chickens. He felt peaceful when he fed them — the same peace he felt in church on Sundays. After church, young John liked to go to the chicken yard in his fine clothes and preach a sermon to the chickens. (When they dipped their heads in rhythm to his words, he knew they agreed with what he said.) Soon, John’s sermons became such a regular part of farm life that his siblings started calling him Preacher, foreshadowing the days when he would “speak before thousands.” Illustrator E. B. Lewis’s bucolic-looking watercolor and gouache landscapes take modern readers back to a time when the entire Lewis family was busy on the farm from dawn to dusk. But even though the days were long and demanding, this family stayed together and used the lessons they learned on the farm and in church to grow into the people they were meant to be. A fine introduction to the life of an American icon.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Robin Smith
Robin Smith
Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.

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