John Lewis in the Lead

By Bookpage

For all the books about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in publication for children, there are precious few books about other major players in the struggle for civil rights. John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson and illustrated by Benny Andrews, introduces young readers to Lewis, born into an Alabama sharecropping family and, since 1986, a U.S. representative from Georgia. What lifts this book from simply being a tribute to a civil rights leader is the extensive timeline and the distinctive illustrations by the late Benny Andrews. In oil and fabric collages we see ordinary white folks taking a bat to Lewis’ head and later, to illustrate the 1965 riot on Bloody Sunday, Andrews uses perspective and silhouettes to show the reader the terror of the brave people who stood up to the authorities. The strong subject matter makes this a perfect picture book to share with older readers and adults who want to learn more about the history of race relations in this country and the power of individuals to fight for their rights and the rights of others.