book review: March Book One

marchbookone_softcoverTitle: March Book One
Authors: John Lewis, Andres Aydin and Nate Powell
Date: Top Shelf Productions, 2013
graphic novel; nonfiction

March Book One describes John Lewis’ early interest in equality and civil rights. The first hand account relates how Lewis found his voice and became connected to the formal Civil Rights Movement.

March is told in graphic novel form and is written by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. The three collaborated to combine text and images to tell a striking story. The story begins with Lewis not wanting to leave the warmth of his bed or his soft slippers. Surely, this parallels the struggles he had in giving up the comfort of his family to fight for the rights of strangers, leaving behind the warmth and security for the sake of a call to duty. Matching word to text allows the authors to underscore meanings in a vivid, emotional and wordless way. This young man who cared and preached to the absolute lowest of the low, his family’s chickens, could not help but be overwhelmed with concern for the his black brothers and sisters, those white society saw as their least.

While at the office, two young boys, Jacob and Esau happen to stop by with their mother to visit the congressman’s on what seems to be the day President Obama is being inaugurated. Lewis takes the opportunity to tell them his story and March unfolds. Jacob and Esau? Biblical names of twins who fought inside their mother’s womb. Their story is one of birthrights.

I don’t read graphic novels often and some of the standard visual references were lost on me. I’m not sure what open panels mean. I did catch that crucial moments were displayed in much larger panels, providing more room to convey meaning. I was provided ‘aha’ moments as I uncovered meanings in passages, thus making personal connections to John Lewis and his story. Not only because it’s written in graphic form, but because of how these past events are contextualized into the future, I think young readers will relate to John Lewis and his message of answering the call. The last scenes in the book move from a ringing landline to a ringing cell phone. Who is calling and why are answers for Book Two.

I enjoyed this book. The most memorable scene for me was on page 27 when Lewis states ”by the time I march_book_two_72dpi_copy1was five, I could read it [The Bible] myself, and one phrase struck me strongly, though I couldn’t comprehend its full meaning at the time” and the words are written on the character’s back. Some of the frames confused me when I couldn’t relate the text to the image. I would love to have had an author’s note on what inspired this book or telling whom Lewis consulted with to jolt and clarify his memories but as it stands, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to young readers.

Coretta Scott King Honor Book
ALA Notable Book
YALSA’s Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
YALSA’s Outstanding Books for the College Bound
2014 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Honor

book review: Pitch Black: don’t be skerd

title: Pitch Black: Don’t Be Skerd

author: Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton

date: Cinco Puntos Press, 2008


YALSA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels in 2009

reading level: 3.1

They meet on a subway in New York City and although they have little else in common, Youme and Anthony discover they are both artists. Anthony shares the story of his life with Youme: how he learned to survive in the streets with neither family nor education and how by seeing things most of us ignore. I don’t think we realize how we’re trained to see what we see around us based on our situation in life.

Youme tells Anthony’s story in terse text and black and white drawings that take us six stories beneath the subway system where Anthony lives. There is no judgement or attempt to change Youme’s life, this story is just a slice of who Anthony is, a validation of his existence.

Our memories

and dreams

walk beside us,

informing everything

we think we see

we are scavengers

of stories.

we seek

hidden messages

of hope and find them.

we gather evidence

of resistance to

oppression and despair.


The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education.”
  Maya Angelou

I do hope your new year is off to the most auspicious of beginnings! Two weeks off in mid-winter, packing away Christmas to make what’s old new again, reflective hours inside a warm home all help make it feel like a year of new beginnings. So does MotherReader’s Comment Challenge. In commenting on five blogs each day, I’m finding many new blogs devoted to reading which have been created by artists, authors, librarians and teachers from which I’ve culled a few new ideas for myself!

One is to take a word rather than an action into the new year. My word is ‘tenderness’. I’ve written it on a polished rock I got in Brazil and plan to make a few decorative signs to hang with quotes about tenderness. I’ve thought about doing something along the lines of The Happiness Project but, that’s a bit much for me! I’ll probably put some things to do along the lines of tenderness into my phone’s calendar so that I don’t forget my Tender Project come March or July or September. I see myself working to use fewer exclamation points and more descriptive terms in writing, tempering my voice and creating and finding a kinder and gentler workplace.

Have you noticed I’ve given my blog new dressing for the new year? I’ve also put a new button on it! I’m working on the Birthday Party Pledge project which simply asks any and everyone to pledge to give multicultural books as gifts to children in their life. The grand lauch is coming soon!

As part of my work for the project, I compiled a list of multicultural graphic novels. I found this section of books to be heavy on non-fiction books with works of very few authors of color being reconstituted into the graphic form. One exception would be Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize. Two well reviewed GNs have actually gone out of print, The Zambine Sisters and Namaha: Shekhar Kapur’s Devi. Please visit the site to see the full list, as well as books in other categories as well.

Jeff Gottesfeld (author of the Superfan series) recently announced on the YALSA listserv that he and playwright Elizabeth Wong (Kimchee and Chitlins) will be collaborating to do the stage adaptation of Randa Abdel-Fattah’s amazing and acclaimed 2007 novel about a modern Muslim girl who makes the choice to wear a hijab full-time, Does my head look big in this?

Most important to my readers, I’ve gotten back to my Sunday morning posts!

Here’s wishing you a most tender of weeks!

Upcoming YALSA events

I’m posting a few upcoming seminars and conferences of interest. While they may not specifically target students of color, or students’ interests will not be recognized by the large organizations if we don’t attend at make them known!

1. ALAN Executive Secretary Gary Salvner invites you to attend “Young Adults and Their Literature: An Inquiry-Based Forum” in conjunction with the 30th Youngstown State University English Festival in Ohio on April 17-19, 2008. Featured speakers include Joan Bauer, Chris Crutcher, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Christopher Paul Curtis, as well as Scott Dikkers, editor and co-founder of The Onion. For further information, go to or contact Gary Salvner at

2. In the spirit of “ReImagining Normal,” Illinois State University is hosting the 2008 Children’s Literature Association Conference on June 12-15, 2008 at the Chateau Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington, Illinois. For more information about the conference, visit The 2008 Children’s Literature Association Phoenix Award will be presented at the conference to Peter Dickinson for Eva (Delacorte, 1988). Quoting from the Phoenix Award brochure, “The Phoenix Award is given to the author, or the estate of the author, of a book for children published originally in English that did not win a major award at the time of its publication twenty years earlier. The award is intended to recognize books of high literary merit. Like the fabled bird that rose from its ashes with renewed life and beauty, Phoenix Award books once again touch the imaginations and enrich the lives of those who read them.” The Honor Book for 2008 is The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen (Viking, 1988). More information about the Children’s Literature Association and/or the Phoenix Award may be found at

3. The first YALSA Literature Symposium is being planned for November . There will be much more information to come through the YALSA website ( and through a soon-to-come Symposium wiki, so please stay tuned for more!

The Symposium will be in Nashville, TN on November 7-9, 2008 and is being made possible in large part through the Bill Morris Endowment. Registration should begin around May 1st and there will be two scholarship opportunities, one for a working librarian, and one for a library school student whose coursework is focusing on teen services. Information and details about registration and the scholarship applications will be coming within the next couple of months.

We have a slate that includes 15 total programs, with one program slot covering an impressive array of deeply inquisitive paper topics. As if this was not enough for one weekend in November, the Symposium will kick off with a special Pre-Conference on Graphic Novels and Manga (Manga as an extension of young adult literature). There will also be special breakfasts and lunches and other really fun events!

So save the date (November 7-9, 2008) and keep your eye out for more information and details soon! For more information send emails to or