Adler's picture book biography is divided into short chapters, to make for easier understanding of the numerous events recorded. The emphasis of the book is on King's leadership during the late 1950s and '60s. Again and again in the book, King struggles against the Jim Crow laws, while preaching the need to meet violence with nonviolence. Adler writes of the marches, church congregations, and sit-ins in a spare and unsentimental language: "On the night of the Montgomery beatings [of the Freedom Riders], Dr. King was in a nearby church. As an angry white mob gathered outside, Dr. King spoke about freedom. And through the night the people in the church sang, 'We shall overcome someday.'" Casilla has illustrated the book in a black-and-white wash style. Shorn of color, the people depicted seem monumental. Casilla also does not flinch from portraying the attacks upon Freedom Riders. And in one powerful image of the freedom march in Birmingham, Alabama, the marchers are just shadows, all but obliterated by the streams of water from the hoses turned against them.
Gr 2-4 While Adler's biography does not alter the facts concerning Dr. King's life, it does present them in a way which makes complex issues seem overly simplified. Trying to detail the tremendous accomplishments of Dr. King in 48 pages dominated by illustrations leaves many important issues and events subject to cursory coverage. Injustice/reaction/change seems to occur on each page, which could give young readers the wrong impression of the actual magnitude of the sacrifice and turmoil involved in the civil rights movement. The illustrations are undistinguished charcoal sketches, some full page, often limiting the text to a paragraph or two. A list of important dates in Dr. King's life precedes the text. Mention is also made of the celebration of the anniversary of his birth, a fact lacking in a number of previous King biographies. While neither are of outstanding quality, both Bains' Martin Luther King (Troll, 1985) and Hunter's Martin Luther King, Jr. (Bookwright Pr, 1985) present a more complete treatment of Martin Luther King. Tom S. Hurlburt, Minneapolis Public Library, Minn.