"Child of the Civil Rights Movement"
By Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colón Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, ages 5-8
Books written by the children of famous people can seem more like a publisher's concept than an interesting story. This book, by the daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, consistently holds to the child's point of view. We hear of the leaders of the civil rights movement, at home, calling for the table to be set, and the macaroni and cheese and sweet tea to be placed out. Dr. King is "Uncle Martin" at the Ollie Street YMCA pool, one of the few in Atlanta open to African-Americans. On the march to Montgomery, Ala., in the spring of 1965, Paula Young Shelton was only 4 and she recounts that she didn't "march," but was carried, and just for part of the march. About the many dining room discussions — what to do, when to do it — she confesses that she hid under the table to listen. She shares her childish confusion over just who or what Jim Crow was, including a fear of a menacing bird that would squawk "you can’t sit there." She doesn’t have to make us think she understood it all as a child. What she remembers, and conveys well, was a sense of love and community. Raul Colon’s illustrations are particularly successful at making the incidents familial and warm.
Mary Harris Russell, professor emeritus of English at Indiana University, reviews children’s books weekly.