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A place to land : Martin Luther King Jr. and the speech that inspired a nation
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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The civil rights movement is magnified through the intimate lens of Martin Luther King Jr.'s momentous "I Have a Dream" speech, as—in the Willard Hotel before the March on Washington—he wrestles with what to say. Thoughtful, humble, vulnerable, and strong, Dr. King weighs his advisers' guidance. As he bends over a legal pad, pencil in hand, the faces of those for whom he fights sit on his shoulders. "Martin saw Rosa, / Fannie Lou, / Emmett, / . . . and so many others / . . . arrested, beaten, shot, and hung." Several important African American figures are honored—past, present, and future—all whose fates intersect in the moment when the reverend takes the pulpit. Dr. King leaves uncertainty behind as he abandons the agonized-over speech in favor of improvisation, summoning "the passion of a Sunday morning sermon." Wittenstein's free verse, beautifully subdued, flows crisp and clear, leaving room for Pinkney to shine. Collage artwork gives the impression of torn fabric—a striking metaphor—with holes being patched by old photographs of hymnals, maps, marchers, and flags, adding texture and tension to the expressive pencil and watercolor renderings. Back matter includes notes from author and artist, sources, bibliography, and further information on peripheral figures. Pair with Kadir Nelson's I Have a Dream (2012) for discussions on the power of words and how, as this book reminds us, "those battles continue to be fought" today. Grades 2-5. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

This deep dive by Wittenstein (Sonny's Bridge) into the speech that galvanized the 1963 March on Washington stars not only Martin Luther King Jr. but also the colleagues whose support was crucial to him. Caldecott Medalist Pinkney captures King in a huddle with nine black pastors and organizers the night before the speech, their figures bursting with energy and life. "You have to preach," Reverend Ralph Abernathy says; Wyatt Tee Walker suggests skipping "I have a dream"; "You have used it too many times already." King works late into the night with pastor Andrew Young by his side; the next day, he's still revising. A moving long view shows throngs of demonstrators—250,000 of them—converging on the Lincoln Memorial. The speech is good, but "Martin wanted more" until a shout from singer Mahalia Jackson ("Tell them about the dream, Martin!") inspires "the passion of a Sunday morning sermon." Wittenstein's riveting story shows that historical moments—and movements—are not inevitable; they're shaped and changed by many hands and voices. In emphatic phrases and art alternatingly warm and tense, the creators' moving portrait of the civil rights leader in consultation with others is an invaluable addition to the shelf of King biographies. A wealth of resources includes notes from the makers, short biographies of King's colleagues, a bibliography, and more. Ages 7–10. Illustrator's agent: Sheldon Fogelman, the Sheldon Fogelman Agency.(Sept.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 2–5—Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech has been etched into the public consciousness. Yet King's actual speech was an in-the-moment response to the audience climate during the March on Washington. A bolt of encouragement from gospel singer Mahalia Jackson prompts King to "Tell them about the dream," igniting the raw passion that his pre-rehearsed words had been missing. Wittenstein's straightforward, informative text conveys both the urgency of King's words and the weight of his responsibility as a social justice icon, but does not compromise the sobering reality of the country's racial unrest in 1963. Pinkney's warm illustrations are reminiscent of courtroom sketches, transporting readers into the historic moment. He explains that he chose to use collage as "a way to reinforce place." Key figures, such as Senator John Lewis and diplomat Andrew Young, are labeled. One powerful double-page spread features the headshots of fallen social justice heroes to present a visual reminder of the blood, sweat, and pain extracted on the road to justice. Figures who were struck down by the brutal violence of white supremacy, like Emmett Till and Medgar Evans, have been drawn with their eyes closed. VERDICT Wittenstein and Pinkney's collaboration is an evocative study in King's speechwriting process. A work that takes a familiar topic and shapes it into a moving portrait of undeterred determination and conviction. Highly recommended for public and school libraries.—Vanessa Willoughby, School Library Journal

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Barry Wittenstein is the author of several picture books, including Waiting for Pumpsie and The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really). He is pursuing a Masters in Childhood Education at Hunter College and lives in New York City.

Legendary author and illustrator Jerry Pinkney's many accolades include the Caldecott Medal, five Coretta Scott King Awards, five Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, four New York Times Best Illustrated Books, and four gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. He served on the National Council of the Arts, is a Trustee Emeritus of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and has taught at Pratt Institute, the University of Delaware, and the University of Buffalo. He lives in Westchester, New York. - (Random House, Inc.)


An introduction to Martin Luther King Jr’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech shares the lesser-known story of how it was written and had not been originally intended to coincide with the history-changing 1963 March on Washington. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)

As a new generation of activists demands an end to racism, A Place to Land reflects on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and the movement that it galvanized.

Winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
Selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Master List

Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there's little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. "It's terrible to be circling up there without a place to land."

Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.

Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.

An ALA Notable Children's Book
A Capitol Choices Noteworthy Title
Nominated for an NAACP Image Award
A Bank Street Best Book of the Year
A Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
A Booklist Editors' Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal
Selected for the CBC Champions of Change Showcase - (Random House, Inc.)

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