cover image A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech

A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech

Shana Corey, illus. by R. Gregory Christie. NorthSouth, $18.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4275-5

Corey (The Secret Subway) and Christie (Freedom in Congo Square) celebrate the birthday centenary of John F. Kennedy with an engaging picture book biography primarily focused on the former president’s evolution on the topic of civil rights. A conversational narrative starts out speaking directly to readers: “The people who make history aren’t just famous leaders.... They’re real people, just like you. Sometimes they are you.” After spreads detailing Kennedy’s childhood, military service, and early political career, the story turns to civil rights and the president’s initial hesitancy to advocate for meaningful reform. Corey adeptly contextualizes Kennedy’s eventual arrival at action, amid protests and desegregation attempts, and his historic antidiscrimination speech that set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Christie’s expressive paintings veer toward the abstract, with skewed proportions and bold brushstrokes, yet the realism of the faces stands out. An empowering conclusion (“And so now it’s your turn... to speak up, to act... to make history”) is followed by an author’s note, bibliography, source notes, and brief vignettes about other notable figures who appear in the story. Ages 8–up. Author’s agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Apr.)