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Honoring MLK through literature

As many of us across the country enjoy a day off of work and school tomorrow, I'd like to share my three current favorite books about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for young readers.

I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, illustrations by Kadir Nelson

This stunning picture book pairs the text of King's iconic "I Have A Dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963 with Kadir Nelson's gorgeous paintings. Each page shows the plight of the disenfranchised groups and individuals referenced in the speech, as well as King's hopes for the future in his own words. Most books I've seen come with a CD of the speech audio to play while reading. Published in 2012, this book is definitely a "must own" for every elementary school and public library.

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Published in early 2018, this beautifully illustrated book of poems about the last few months of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life leading up to his assassination in April 1968. The metaphors are powerful and the artwork is perfectly matched on every page. I love so much of Andrea Davis Pinkney's work: A Poem for Peter, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, and The Red Pencil. This book is perfect for use with grades 4 and up, either in its entirety or by focusing on individual poems.

Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King Jr,'s Assassin by James L. Swanson

From the author of Chasing Lincoln's Killer and The President Has Been Shot! (about JFK's assassination) comes another nonfiction thriller for grades 7 and up. The book not only details King's early life, the first public attempt on his life in 1958, and his meteoric rise to fame as a powerful speaker and leader, but it also tells the story of James Earl Ray's escape from prison and plot to kill Dr. King, as well as the two months he spent as a fugitive from justice. Filled with pages of photos, letters, and newspaper articles, you won't be able to put this book down.