John Lewis in the Lead

By Edge of the Forest

John Lewis in the Lead is a biography written for middle grade readers (ages 9-11). The opening sentence, ‘John Lewis was born at a time when the winds of change were blowing, just waiting for someone to catch them and hold on long enough for everyone to feel the breeze,’ draws us into the excitement of his coming dramatic actions. Stories from his childhood set the stage by telling us of how his aunt gathered a group of children to hold down the house during a hurricane and how he learned to preach by practicing with the chickens. The illustrations are dramatic and emotional, with bright colors contrasting the darkness of shadowed faces and looming buildings. The faces are indistinct and grim on many pages, which I am sure would upset young children but will appeal to older students who want to be challenged with the harder truths of real life. The book ends with the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, after telling how strong an impact Lewis’ work had in the days of Marching to Selma. In the back of the book is a time line of his life’s accomplishments with several black and white photos. This is a well-done biography of the life of a great American.