cover image My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart

My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart

Angela Farris Watkins, illus. by Eric Velasquez, Abrams, $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8975-7

In her first book for children, Watkins offers an affectionate tribute to King (known to his family as “Uncle M.L.”), emphasizing his love of family and laughter. While she notes his accomplishments as orator and civil rights activist, her focus is on personal memories of her uncle, who was killed before the author turned four. The reminiscences are anecdotal: Watkins recalls that King would divert his attention from the congregants who were waiting to greet him after he preached to give her “a kiss and a great big hug!” And on one visit to her home, “he was so tired, he fell asleep on our living room couch—with his shoes on! Can you imagine?” More memorable than the theatrical and repetitive narrative are the realistic paintings Velasquez (My Friend Maya Loves to Dance) offers of King, who is shown at work and with his immediate family. In an artist’s note, Velasquez explains that he intentionally portrayed Watkins as older than she actually was during King’s lifetime; the scenes of uncle and niece together poignantly reveal the bond between them. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)