________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Microphone. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3711-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-3689-9 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968-Juvenile literature.
African Americans-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Civil rights workers-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Janice Foster.

***½ /4



"So Martin Luther King, Jr. was prepared to go to jail for what he believed in," said Digby. "That must have been difficult, especially for his kids."

"He had to do it. He had to show that he was prepared to suffer so others would follow him," said Mr. Rummage. "In 1960, he was arrested in a white-only restaurant in downtown Atlanta. Although the charges were dropped soon after."

"Good,!" said Hannah defiantly. "I'm glad he was freed."

"But he wasn't," said Mr. Rummage. "He'd previously been let off for driving without a license. So the judge reinstated that charge and sentenced him to four months hard labor instead."


Although the biography genre is a favourite of many adult readers, children will often bypass this genre unless it is assigned in school. Consequently, authors of biographies for younger readers must interest and engage the reader though a personal connection with the subject of the biography. The "Stories of Great People" series addresses this challenge by incorporating a narrative story line with factual information about the life and times of the subject. The setting is Knicknack Market where Mr. Rummage's "Antiques" stall acquaints Digby, a 10-year-old collector, and his older sister, Hannah, with objects with a story to tell.

      In Martin Luher King, Jr.'s Microphone, Digby and Hannah discover that a battered microphone was once used by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous speech "I have a dream…" , a speech that addressed hope for the rights of African Americans. The children's not knowing who Martin Luther King, Jr. was or the significance of the microphone causes the narration of the life of this famous civil rights leader to begin. His story is told by Mr. Rummage, the antiques vendor who has a great story to tell for each of his treasures. The narration, written in a conversational style, is entertaining and should appeal to young readers. This dialogue provides authentic information and helps reveal Martin Luther King, Jr., the person, together with his thoughts, his dreams and his challenges. The young reader gains further insight into this celebrated man through the factual information pages and sidebars. The latter, presented in a contrasting format, will captivate the reader while providing historical details that complement the narration. Both the easy-to-read narration and the concise information text allows the reader to understand Martin Luther King, Jr. as a person and as a historical figure who influenced the lives of others.

      Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Microphone is cleverly formatted so that the narrative is clearly differentiated from the factual information. The authors' narrative text merges a fictionalized narrative setting with factual dialogue. It is presented against a white background with cartoon style drawings by Leighton Noyes and Karen Radford which depict the characters of the narration. The factual information is displayed on a coloured patterned background accompanied by photographs and sketches of real objects. A glossary and index are included. Although not a complete biography of this famous American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Microphone provides the young reader with a new and engaging style to this genre. The mixture of narration and factual information is motivating and enables the audience to emotionally connect to this person who affected history. It provides historical background on topics such as racism and the fight for human rights for African Americans. This book might easily lead the reader to explore further information on this famous individual or to read other books in this genre.

Highly Recommended.

Janice Foster, a freshly retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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