cover image Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by James E. Ransome. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8027-2368-0

Weatherford (In Your Hands) and Ransome (The Nutcracker in Harlem) show readers how lessons from the life of Martin Luther King Jr., translated into simple maxims, remain relevant. Alternating between decisive moments in King’s life and a contemporary classroom preparing to celebrate the holiday honoring him, Weatherford assures readers, “You can be a King.” One spread shows King giving his historic speech at the Lincoln Memorial (“You can be a King. Have a dream. Make yours great enough to grow into”), followed by vignettes of a child in a wheelchair making cupcakes for the celebration. The concept isn’t entirely successful: the classroom scenes, rendered in a cartoony sketchbook aesthetic against white backgrounds, feel forced and stagey. But the historical scenes, painted in Ransome’s signature thick, saturated style, are infused with a powerful sense of narrative. King himself is absent in one of the most stirring images: an empty bus during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The green, riderless seats affirm the King quotation that opens the book: “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (Jan.) [/em]