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Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Recently I was interviewed by a Canadian publication about Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the public librarian’s role. Canadians don’t celebrate it themselves, so they asked me a variety of different questions, at one point wondering if kids in school even know why they have the day off.  I told them that certainly my library was out of every single book possibly relating to Martin Luther King Jr. at the moment because of all the teachers and parents who had come through and grabbed them.  Then I gave them a nice list of those MLK books I was particularly fond of.

However, I’ve been clinging to this blog post from the site Book Patrol for a year because I found it interesting.  The title is, Libraries Keep MLK’s Crucial Comic Book.  Consider it hard to top.

By the way, if you want to see my quickie list of some of the better (and recent) Martin Luther King Jr. titles out there that I passed along to the Canadians, here they are:

Great Martin Luther King Books


A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla
A brief, illustrated, biography of the Baptist minister and civil rights leader whose philosophy and practice of nonviolent civil disobedience helped American blacks win many battles for equal rights.

Martin Luther King by Rosemary L. Bray, paintings by Malcah Zeldis
Folk-art paintings enhance the text of this portrait of the courageous civil rights leader.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney
Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream of peace and equality. Because he worked so hard for freedom and helped so many people gain it, we honor him every year on his special day. This inspiring, beautifully illustrated biography gently teaches young readers about the life–and lessons–of this great man.

As Good as Anybody : Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Raul Colón
The story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.

I’ve Seen the Promised Land : The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
Pictures and easy-to-read text introduce the life of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin’s Big Words : The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
A picture book biography introduces the ideas and accomplishments of a gifted and influential speaker by using some of his own words to tell the story.

My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart by Angela Farris Watkins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
A young girl introduces readers to her uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., describing what he does and family moments they have shared.


Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader, illustrated by Elizabeth Wolf
An introduction to the life Martin Luther King, Jr. Including how he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott and African American people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Dana Meachen Rau
Introduces Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, explaining the historical events behind it, how it became a holiday, and how it is observed.


Martin Luther King, Jr. : A Dream of Hope by Alice Fleming
The pastor of a small Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, King became the driving force of the civil rights movement when he led a black boycott of the city’s bus lines. His philosophy of nonviolence, and his breathtaking eloquence, helped free African Americans from decades of oppression and finally won them the rights—and opportunities—they deserved.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. We do NOT have the day off. All of our Black history is done in February (and I hope readers can feel the sarcasm and disappointment dripping out of my fingers).

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I’d be interested in how geography affects where kids learn the most about the day. For example, since I grew up in Kalamazoo (not far from you Ed) I don’t actually remember getting the day off. My husband, in contrast, grew up in Atlanta where the day was explained and celebrated with a great deal of history. Ditto here in NYC. Does location matter in these cases?

  2. Your branch of the NYPL might have all the MLK books checked out, but mine didn’t. The one I went to on Friday didn’t even have a display for him. Do kids understand the day off? Not really, at least not when I was teaching. Were they interested in MLK Day? Not really, they told me it was a day off to hang out with friends and play video games. It was sad. Did they know about Dr. King when they left my classroom? You bet they did. I still get chills every time I hear his I Have a Dream speech.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I live in Maryland, and as far as I can judge–from being first a public librarian and then a school librarian –children know more about Martin Luther King than any man in American history. King is more famous than Lincoln; much more famous than Washington or Jefferson. Children in the primary grades may have trouble locating King chronologically–they get confused by the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War–but they can tell you about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and they know that King was the man who had a dream. They also know about about King’s tragic death.

  4. I’m in the Los Angeles area and I remember having the day off when I was a kid (20~25 years ago); as far as I know the school districts in this area have always had the day off. My daughter, who is in kindergarten this year, came home last week telling me the basic facts of MLK’s life, and my 5th grader also did some activities related to the day.

    In years past, my library’s MLK books have been checked out when I display the books, which I intend to do this coming week (I’ll be reading “As Good As Anybody” and “Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King!” to a few of my grades.)

  5. When I do World History with 10th graders, they confuse Martin Luther with Martin Luther King, but we straighten it out pretty quickly! Most of them know some basics about the Civil Rights Movement and “I Have a Dream” thanks to diligent elementary school teachers.

  6. There’s a really nice picture book version of the I Have a Dream speech, with each section illustrated by a different person. Great variety of images, and it’s been a wonderful way to encourage students to really think about what each point of the speech meant.

  7. That stuff about the comic was AMAZing, thanks.

  8. The entire 1957 MLK comic book can be found at on Ethan Persoff’s wild and wooly site.

  9. I was just about to say “I’d looooove to read that comic book!” Thanks for posting about it, Betsy, and thanks for the link to the whole comic book, Lars.