Review: I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

i have a dream

I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The power of Martin Luther King’s words meet the beauty of Nelson’s art in this luminous picture book.  Using lines pulled directly from the latter part of King’s famous I Have a Dream speech, Nelson shows young readers how history was made that day.  From King himself standing before the Lincoln Memorial to the seas of people listening, people of all colors standing side-by-side.  Kadir moves back and forth between capturing the magnificence of King and his speech to images of what the world being dreamed of would look like.  There are beautiful skin tones shown together as well as impressive vistas of the nation.  Pure celebration, this is a picture book that truly captures the heart of King’s speech in a way that children will be able to understand.

Nelson’s art has already won him a Caldecott Honor.  Here he has the courage to take on a famous man at his more memorable moment.  But he doesn’t just show us the history, he illuminates it.  King shines with light, stands with power, and beams with faith.  There is a humanity to him too, somehow Nelson has captured what is beneath the skin too.  Beautifully.

One of my favorite images of the book is the pair of white and black hands joined together.  Against a plain white background, the hands are such a powerful symbol.  Kadir paired those joined hands with a section about faith, so the two joined together become a prayer of their own too. 

This book belongs in every library, both for the historical power of the moment being captured, but also for its exceptional beauty and art.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

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