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Review: March, Book Two

Sometimes when I finish reading a book, it takes me a few minutes to pull out of the world I was engrossed in for hours. It’s because a book was so powerful that while I was entrenched in its pages, I only saw and heard what was in the book. Lately, books that evoke this reaction have been few and far between, but when I finished the second volume of March, that’s how I felt. I needed some time to orient myself back to the 21st Century and shake the powerful feeling the book had left me.

March: Book Two
Written by Congressman John Lewis & Andrew Aydin. Art by Nate Powell
Top Shelf. 192 pp.
January 20, 2015. ISBN 978-1-60309-400-9. hc. $19.95
Recommended 8th grade and up.

March 2In the first volume of March, the writers juxtapose the inauguration of President Obama with the events of the civil rights movement, in particular, the lunch counter sit-ins. The book is a story within a story: As Representative John Lewis gets ready for the inauguration, he tells his civil rights story to two young African American Children. But while Book Two still juxtaposes the events with the inauguration, that storytelling element is no longer there.

In Book Two the focus is on the Freedom Riders, the brave people who worked to integrate the interstate buses and bus stations in the South. The story still flashes forward to the 2009 inauguration but no longer has the two young boys listening to the events (which I missed, though it really wasn’t necessary for the storytelling—it was just a nice touch). Book Two focuses on Lewis’s growth in SNCC, and the book ends with the March on Washington, where readers who only know bare bones about the March will find out fascinating tidbits. For instance, the leaders were so engrossed in haggling over the exact verbiage of John Lewis’s speech that the March started without them! There’s a hint to the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr., went off script and answered Mahalia Jackson’s cry, “Tell them your dream.”

There are many key historical figures in the book. From President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the notorious “Bull” Connor, to Malcolm X, and of course Martin Luther King Jr. Each figure is given his due respects in the volume. (With regard to Malcolm X, the authors respectfully disagree with Malcolm X’s politics without badmouthing his violent stance.)

This volume is not only more intense than Book One, but the violence has escalated. This is not to say that the violence doesn’t work within the context of the story, but it may be hard for young readers to digest the hard truth of the Civil Rights Movement. There is a scene where the protesters are taken to jail and forced to undress and shower. There is slight nudity, though sensitively handled. But this book is about the hard truth of the Civil Rights movement. It doesn’t just focus on the accomplishments, but on the sacrifice it took to get there.

The black and white ink drawings add layers of intensity to the story. Powell remains faithful to the representation of historic figures. He draws the violence as ugly: White hooligans spitting at protesters and police officers standing aside allowing it to happen. The artwork gives the story an added depth that a narrative retelling would not necessarily have.

This is a superb addition to any library collection. Teachers looking to enhance their curriculum on the civil rights should make sure to add this to their suggested reading or even using it as a central text.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Top Shelf Productions.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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