Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is quickly approaching and I want to share a great book about him with you! My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a memoir written by Christine King Farris, King’s older sister. While many of the books on Dr. King focus on his accomplishments as a civil rights leader, this is the story of how he grew up and how his family helped shape his future.
In this book, we see the young M.L. through the eyes of his sister and her stories make him seem more like one of us than the larger than life legend we’ve always learned about. Hilarity isn’t something I would normally expect to find in a King biography, but you will laugh as the King children use their mother’s fur on a stick to scare neighbors out for a walk or when M.L. and his younger brother loosen the legs of the piano bench when they don’t want to practice with their strict piano teacher. Farris’s stories make Dr. King more approachable, especially for young children.
Also interesting to read is the way Dr. King’s family shapes his views on segregation and injustice. Growing up, the King children were fairly sheltered from the realities of life in the south because their parents chose not to frequent places where they would suffer from discrimination, such as the movies or the streetcars. There is even a white family across the street that the King children play with, but eventually, the neighbors tell them they aren’t allowed to play with them because of the color of their skin and the King children begin to learn what they will experience as they get older. Young M.L. asks his mother why the white people treat them so harshly and she tries to explain it all to him, leaving him with hope with the thought that, “someday, it will be better.” From his father, he hears about standing up for himself peacefully and with dignity. These early experiences gave the young M.L. the strength to become a man who changed the world.
Chris Soentpiet’s pictures are a gorgeous addition to Farris’s words. They are warm and inviting and do a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the lives of the King children. Soentpiet has captured the shock of the neighbors’ faces as they see something furry scamper from the bushes and the sadness of the King children as their mother tries to explain their friends’ behavior. He is an amazing illustrator! You may also find the Illustrator’s Note at the end of the book interesting to share with your children. Soentpiet describes meeting with Farris and touring the sites of her childhood and then explains how he took what he saw and used it to make his pictures. He even reveals which King family members he used as models in the book!
There are many books out there on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that you could share with your children, but few are so personal and touching. This is one that your children will remember long after because it doesn’t just relate the facts, it brings you into King’s life.