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Picture Book Review for MLK Day – A Place to Land

A PLACE TO LAND:

Martin Luther King Jr.

and the Speech That Inspired a Nation

Written by Barry Wittenstein

Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

(Neal Porter Books/Holiday House; $18.99, Ages 7-10)

 

A Place to Land book cover

 

A 2019 Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

INTRO

Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, will never cease to give me chills or bring tears to my eyes so I’m grateful for the meticulously researched backstory behind the composition thoughtfully presented in A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein and Jerry Pinkney.

While elementary-school-aged children may be familiar with King’s speech, they may not know how long it took to write, that it was delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, or that one of the most quoted parts of it was shared extemporaneously at the prompting of gospel great Mahalia Jackson. In this enlightening picture book, readers are privy to fascinating fly-on-the-wall moments that demonstrate King’s writing process and how his background as a preacher played a part in its creation.

 

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Interior spread from A Place to Land written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Neal Porter Books ©2019.

 

REVIEW:

Over the years I’ve reviewed myriad wonderful MLK Jr. books and A Place to Land, like those others, has focused on an impactful point in King’s life and magnified it so we may understand it better. Wittenstein’s lyrical writing shines and flows like a King speech, pulling us in with each new line. I found myself repeating many of the sentences aloud, marveling at what he chose to keep on the page and wondering how much he had to leave out. The revealing information Wittenstein details will inspire readers to reexamine well-known orations throughout history, looking at their content through a new lens.

 

Pages from A Place to Land interior Page 2
Interior spread from A Place to Land written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Neal Porter Books ©2019.

 

The story in A Place to Land unfolds in three significant locations, the Willard Hotel in D.C., the Lincoln Memorial, and at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama just prior to, during, and some years after King’s speech. Historical figures are woven into most of Pinkney’s spreads. Readers will be prompted to learn more about every individual noted and the comprehensive back matter provides the resources to do so.

I hadn’t known that the “I Have a Dream” speech was written at the Willard nor did I know how many influential colleagues contributed during the meeting of the minds prior to King’s drafting of the speech. “So Martin did what great men do. He asked for guidance.” I also hadn’t realized that MLK Jr. practically pulled an all-nighter writing it after the lengthy and honest discussions. How he managed to make such a powerful presentation after barely any sleep is beyond me, but clearly, his adrenaline kicked in and his natural oratory skills took command at that lectern.

As a former speechwriter, my favorite part of A Place to Land was reading about King’s exhaustive efforts to craft the speech late into the night while trying to integrate all the input he’d been given earlier in the meeting. In his message, he wanted to convey the goals of his non-violent civil rights movement and continue to push for racial equality and the end of discrimination. He was also determined to honor those who came before him and those who would carry on his dreams. “… and so many others, their faces forever seared into his memory.”

King found himself “Writing. Rewriting. Rephrasing, …” and then practicing his delivery before succumbing to sleep. I felt as though I were in the room with him, knowing as he did that there was an important element currently eluding him that was still to come.

 

Pages from A Place to Land interior Page 3
Interior spread from A Place to Land written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Neal Porter Books ©2019.

ART

Pinkney’s outstanding collage-style illustrations are so fitting for the subject matter. He seamlessly blends images of civil rights advocates with elements of the movement and the era. As I turned the pages, I couldn’t wait to see what people would appear and against what backdrop. It’s hard to imagine any other art marrying so well with Wittenstein’s or MLK Jr.’s words. I resoundingly recommend A Place to Landby Barry Wittenstein and Jerry Pinkney for parents, teachers, and librarians. It’s a movingly written, motivating, educational, and timeless read that I will definitely revisit.

Visit the publisher’s website page here for bonus material.

Click here for a roundup of more recommended reads for MLK Day.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

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Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival

20TH ANNUAL CHARLOTTE S. HUCK
CHILDREN’S LITERATURE FESTIVAL 2016
SPECIAL OFFER FOR GRWR READERS

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It’s Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Festival time! Do you have an interest in illustrating or writing children’s books? Do you want to learn from some of the greatest children’s book creators of our time? Do you just simply love all things kidlit? Then please join me at the Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival on February 26 and 27th to celebrate 20 years of children’s literature on the University of Redlands campus. Hear and meet with award-winning children’s book authors and illustrators including Debra Frasier, Marla Frazee, Mike Graf, Kevin Henkes, Linda Sue Park, Jerry Pinkey, and Janet Wong. Check out an exhibit of children’s book art and even try your hand at your own craft at small group workshops.

PinkneyLittleRedHenWe’re thrilled the Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival has offered Good Reads With Ronna readers an exclusive $25 discount! All you need to do is download the printable registration form here, indicate on the “three together” option that you’re registering as one person with the code “Ronna” and then enclose a check for $175 and mail to the address given below. In other words, the usual three attendee requirement has been waived for Good Reads With Ronna readers (also the Feb. 5 due date has been waived for GRWR readers). The $175 fee is for the total conference which includes three meals, snacks and the entire program, Friday and Saturday. If you plan to only attend one day, you will need to pay that one day fee and there is no discount in that case. Registration closes on February 12th. Check here to see more details about the special hotel discounts in Redlands the festival has arranged. Hotel space is filling up so don’t delay!

 

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All of the events take place on campus. Registration, meals, check-in, and the general session will be held in the Orton Conference Center on the Redlands’ campus.

More info …
Check out photos of the 2015 Festival on the Charlotte Huck Facebook page here. Like the page and stay in the know about upcoming Festival events and information.

For more information: Contact Festival secretary Colleen Quesada at 909-748-8791 or email festival coordinator Marjorie Arnett.

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Please mail completed registration forms and payment here:

The Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival
University of Redlands School of Education
P. O. Box 3080 1200 East Colton Avenue
Redlands, CA 92373-0999
Attention: Colleen Quesada, Office Manager SOE

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