"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Have a Dream

With the advent of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and our school-wide MLK, jr. concert, I decided this was a good week to read this contender for our Mock Caldecott.  Knowing that the students have been learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. in their classrooms, I could place the focus on the award.  The children donned their Caldecott hats and off we read.
Each story read with children is a journey of sorts.  To turn my head, while reading I Have a Dream and see 24 children in rapt attention was powerful.  Unlike the previous week's Mock Caldecott book, there was no humor here.  The students seemed to understand the import of the message.  Their bodies were still and their gazes were intent. They were working hard reading the pictures.

Kadir Nelson's illustrations are incredible.  He has beautifully rendered the speech and the event in I Have a Dream. I was especially moved by the shifting perspective between those of Martin Luther King, jr. and the scenes of the Mall and those of the themes and ideals within the speech.  

The three specific illustrations I would also mention are the first scene depicting MLK just before the speech: every conceivable emotion seems to be washing over his face, yet what shines through are confidence, courage and determination.  

The other is the two-page fold where the profile of MLK takes up two thirds of the left hand page.  It is powerful and speaks to the strength of character and importance of the words. When I speak with students about the use of white space and perspective, this is exactly that to which I am referring.  

The last comment (for today) is about the two-page spreads that have the four states.  They really resonated with the students.  it was a moment when they wanted to share an "aha" moment. The use of line, color, shadow and perspective  to connect them is so effective. It is these threads that connect seemingly incongruous places not unlike the threads of peace, freedom and social justice that connect a seemingly incongruous population.  I am not sure whether this was purposeful, but the less congruous and connected images of the southern states is effective.  The lack of connecting threads(beyond the horizon) is jarring after the previous image.
Enough from me, here are some student reaction's to the book:

Ashley: "Each page speaks peace and freedom."

Josie: "The illustrations help me understand the big words."

Parker: "The illustrations show peace.  They look like what Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about." 

Samuel "I think that the illustrations showed that Martin Luther King, Jr. was very serious and he actually wanted what he said."

Miles: "I like the pictures of when the hills and trees combined through the different places.  It is very detailed in the illustrations."

Lev: "I have heard that Martin Luther King, Jr. died because someone didn't like the work he was doing.  I think it was cool how he stood out in the pictures and looked so strong."

Liam: "I like how the birds are all flying free in the blue sky. It reminds me of freedom."

We've got one or two more books to read.  This will be close because voting day is next Wednesday for us.  Stay tuned!

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