by Elizabeth Bleacher
The approach of Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives educators the perfect opportunity to explore some of the issues that surround equality and justice, but it can be difficult to relate such complex topics to young students. The illustrated children’s book My Brother Martin, written by Christine King Farris and illustrated by Chris Soentpiet, is the perfect way to introduce early readers to Dr. King’s life and work.
Christine King Farris and Chris Soentpiet
My Brother Martin tells the story of Dr. King’s childhood through the recollections of his older sister, Christine, all the while setting the stage for the seemingly inevitable role her brother played in the civil rights movement. Students will find it easy to connect with a young Dr. King thanks to the familiar, intimate voice of the storyteller and the detailed, realistic illustrations. Soentpiet won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for the book in 2004. Additionally, Soentpiet's website offers a lesson plan for the book as well as other suggested reading that addresses similar topics.
Teachers that find My Brother Martin helpful may also enjoy many of the other stories illustrated by Soentpiet. Since he emphasizes historical and cultural accuracy in his illustrations, Soentpiet’s work in books like More Than Anything Else and Coolies offers valuable visual aids for teachers covering abstract topics like diversity, equality, and cultural understanding.
Soentpiet is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Society of Illustrators’ gold medal for his illustrations in Peacebound Trains. He is also the three-time winner of the International Reading Association (IRA) Book Award for More Than Anything Else, Molly Bannaky, and Coolies.
Soentpiet is the featured presenter at the Book and Author Luncheon at IRA’s Annual Convention, on Monday, April 22, 2013. During his session, the award winning children’s picture book creator will discuss the importance of literature and diversity in teaching.
IRA 58th Annual Convention registration is open and tickets for the Book and Author Luncheon with Soentpiet on Monday, April 22 are available on a first-come basis. The Annual Convention will take place in San Antonio, Texas from April 19 to 22. Visit www.iraconvention.org and the iPlanner Program Grid and Event Search for details.
Elizabeth Bleacher is the strategic communications department intern at the International Reading Association.