Illustrated by Nate Powell
On the morning of Barack Obama’s inauguration to his first term as president, Congressman John Lewis readies himself in his office in Washington D.C. A lady with two kids stops by the office, obviously not expecting the Congressman to be there, but they are delighted to find him and ask questions about his life and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. This launches Lewis down memory lane as he recounts his childhood from growing up on a farm, raising chickens, to going to school and getting involved in sit ins at local department store lunch counters. The work isn't done with those demonstrations, as later volumes promise to hold other activism and demonstrations Lewis took part in and led.
This first volume is a great introduction to Lewis' life and the different demonstrations he was part of. Lewis' attachment to his chickens and moral obligation to them as a child gives the reader the foundation for Lewis' sense of right and wrong, and the value he had for all life. The story frame of these stories being told on President Obama's inauguration day tie a historic movement with another historic moment, one many readers may remember themselves (though as this stays alive longer in classrooms, the years dwindle as to how long that will be true).
Powell's illustrations, although black and white, are truly powerful and used with such skill. His use of perspective and shadows help tell the story like another layer of narration. There is so much detail in each panel that repeat readers will be rewarded every reading with noticing something new.
Since this work is primarily about the American Civil Rights Movement, students with some knowledge of the history will get more enjoyment and understanding out of the work. This story could be read and enjoyed by students as young as 6th grade if they already have knowledge of the Movement, but since this is more heavily covered in 8th grade, that's where I'd place the beginning of the suitability range for this book.
Sara's Rating: 10/10
Suitability Level: Grades 8-12
Tags: Rating: 10/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction, Memoir, History, Race Relations
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