Sunday, August 18, 2013

Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song - by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney (ages 6-10)

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, one of the largest political rallies for human rights in U.S. history. I often wonder about how we can best share this event with children--what may be living memory for us or our parents is certainly history for them. I am often surprised how many of our elementary students have not heard Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Martin and Mahalia is a beautiful new book sharing this moment in a special way for children. The authors, husband and wife team of writer Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrator Brian Pinkney, focus on the inspiring words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and also the gospel legend Mahalia Jackson.
Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Little, Brown, 2013
ages 6 - 10
your local library
*best new book*
With poetic words and inspiring illustrations, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney show how Martin and Mahalia came together as leaders of the civil rights movement, arriving at the pivotal moment of the March on Washington.

The narrative starts with Martin and Mahalia's youth, as they grew into their gifts and found the strength and conviction of their voices. Brian Pinkney used blues and greens to imbue the background of spreads on Martin Luther King, Jr., as you can see in this page below. You'll also notice the symbolic dove in the top right hand page. Each illustration includes the dove, as a spirit guide throughout this journey.

Mahalia grew into her voice, singing the gospel and inspiring all types of people. "Mahalia's voice was brass and butter. Strong and smooth at the same time." The illustrations for Mahalia are filled with reds, oranges and yellows. It would be fascinating to ask students if they thought there was any symbolic importance in terms of these hot or cool colors. Brian Pinkney also incorporates key parts of the text throughout his illustrations, emphasizing the words' poetic, dramatic tone.

Andrea Davis Pinkney's words combine straightforward text with more poetic, inspirational writing to great effect. She conveys the hope, faith and conviction that guided Martin and Mahalia and continues to guide young readers today. In one of my favorite passages, Davis Pinkney writes,
"Martin's sermons and Mahalia's spirituals told their listeners




To a place,
to a time,
when we all will be free.

People listened and believed."
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington in 1963, Mahalia was the lead-in for King, singing the gospel classic I've Been 'Buked, and I've Been Scorned. Mahalia set the tone for the crowd, inspiring them but also quieting them, bringing them to the pivotal moment when King took the stage. As readers will notice, when Martin and Mahalia come together, Pinkney combines their colors, infusing the page with shades of purple and violet.

Pair Martin & Mahalia with Kadir Nelson's soaring new book I Have a Dream, which illustrates Martin Luther King's inspiring speech and includes a CD recording of the original speech.

For fascinating background and a beautiful introduction of this book, definitely check out the archived recording of the Booklist Webinar “I Have a Dream”: An Anniversary Celebration. I even think students would enjoy hearing this author and artist introducing this book. And I love Andrea Davis Pinkney's singing - what a treat, especially given this story!

For other great nonfiction books to share with your readers, check out Nonfiction Monday. This week it's hosted by Perogies and Gyoza.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Little, Brown. The illustrations are copyright ©2013 Brian Pinkney, shared with permission of the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Hi there Mary Ann. So happy to see a new collaboration by the Pinkneys - absolute favourites. I shall be on the look out for this one. Thank you for sharing this new title. It looks great!

  2. Holly reviewed this, too! It looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love the work of this husband and wife team. Brian and Andrea are great. Thanks for linking up.