Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Honoring Sacrifice with Service

Yesterday many observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a day “on,” not a day “off.” Acts of service took place in communities across the country. A book which sums up the challenge, the courage, and the continuing march forward was published two years ago. I discovered it recently and am so glad I did. Its message is timeless.

OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change, by Michelle Cook, Bloomsbury, 2009

The sweep of history and the flow of this meticulously executed book are enhanced by these gifted artists, some of the most celebrated illustrators in the children’s field: E. B. Lewis, James Ransome, Eric Velasquez, Pat Cummings, Leo and Diane Dillon, Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Bryan Collier, AG Ford, Frank Morrison, Charlotte Riley-Webb, and Shadra Strickland

Inspired by phrases that appeared at rallies, on blogs, and in text messages during the 2008 presidential campaign, author and editor Michelle Cook collaborated with Bloomsbury on developing the text. Bringing the interpretations of major talents together could so easily have resulted in a choppy effect. It works! The synergy of the parts and the power of the whole make a strong impression on readers, no matter their ages.

Each double page spread leads to the next, just as the courage and accomplishments of each generation lay a foundation for the children to come. As the jacket announces, this is a story for everyone, “for it is on the backs of our ancestors that every child is raised.”

Ancestors singled out here are George Washington Carver, Jesse Owen, Hattie McDaniel, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Barack Obama. Short biographical sketches of both historical figures and illustrators are included.

This book doesn’t lead to a conclusion. It does point to a future. The title is repeated in the last lines, the final spread, illustrated by E. B. Lewis:. “so our children can soar! And higher and faster and stronger they go.”

May this always be true: higher, faster, stronger.

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