10.21.2013

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song


This post joins other
Nonfiction Monday
kidlit blogs hosted today
by Abby the Librarian
and joins It's Monday!
What are you reading?

Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers
(pub.7.30.2013) 40 pages 

A True Tale with 
A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Andrea Davis Pinkney
           and Illustrator: Brian Pinkney
    
haracter:  Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson

O verview from the jacket flap: 

      "They were each born with the gift of gospel. As partners in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson fought segregation in America with the sheer power of their voices. Martin moved crowds with his message of hope and peace, while Mahalia stirred their souls with her smooth and booming vocals.
       United at the momentous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, they stood together, shared a dream, and changed the course of history."

T antalizing taste: 

"Martin's sermons and Mahalia's spirituals
told their listeners:

*YOU ARE HERE.


ON THE PATH.

COME ALONG.

STEP PROUD.

STAND STRONG.

BE BRAVE.

GO WITH ME.

To a place,

to a time,
when we all will BE FREE.

People listened and believed."


and something more: Andrea Davis Pinkney is not only the New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of more than thirty books for children and young adults (including picture books, novels, historical fiction and nonfiction), she is also the vice president, executive editor at Scholastic. So she knows and understands both sides of the publishing world.
       This past August, I had the opportunity to attend the amazing Andrea Davis Pinkney's seminar focusing on narrative nonfiction at the Los Angeles SCBWI conference. She explained that a nonfiction writer needs to discover the spark, "the little nugget" of a fact-based story that will hold the hand of the reader and gently yank him or her forward. She said that her son described boring types of nonfiction writing as "yucky spinach."  So the writer needs to "get rid of yucky spinach" and instead find a way to tell the story, how to "jazz it up," to convey an "experience with tremendous emotional truth."
      Referring to the inspiration for Martin & Mahalia, Andrea recounted that every year she watches the August 28, 1963, video of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs. One time she noticed Mahalia Jackson sitting next to Martin at the speech. She was struck by the "respective power of their voices" at this historical event -- his "oratorial prowess" and her "full-bodied contralto." 
    Andrea Davis Pinkney explained in her note at the back of the book that "The friendship between Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson is one underscored by the collective influence of their voices. Martin and Mahalia articulated hope at a time when Americans were eager for social change... It was Mahalia's singing coupled with Martin's powerful oratory that gave Americans reasons to embrace justice and rejoice in the beauty of racial unity."
     With her own lyrical and poetic voice, Andrea found the nugget to tell their stories of Martin and Mahalia. Andrea Davis Pinkney wove the stories of these two great people around the common threads of their powerful voices:

"Martin's voice had a force all its own.
He started off slowly.
STEADY AS A TRAIN
pressing forward.

... Mahalia's heart filled with pride as Martin's speech 
swelled to a sermon.

Mahalia called out to her friend,
'TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR DREAM, MARTIN!"

8 comments:

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Loved this book - there is footage of Jackson singing, which is absolutely incredible.

Alex said...

I thought this is one of the best books I have read about Martin Luther King, Jr. and it is nice that Mahalia Jackson has been introduced to a new generation. Thanks for sharing this beautiful book.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Tara,

Oh! I'm off to look for the footage of Mahalia Jackson singing. Thanks for mentioning it.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alex. Yes, I agree -- it's an amazing book, and interweaving their stories makes it even more powerful.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Looks like the Pinkneys have done it again! I shall definitely look for this book. I love love love their tandem. And this is a story that would resonate with most everyone I believe.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Myra,
Yes! They are quite the team, aren't they? Yes, I think this story does resonate with everyone.
Thanks for stopping by!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Myra,
Yes! They are quite the team, aren't they? Yes, I think this story does resonate with everyone.
Thanks for stopping by!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Myra,
Yes! They are quite the team, aren't they? Yes, I think this story does resonate with everyone.
Thanks for stopping by!