Hue’s Reviews: Memphis, Martin, and The Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan

Dreamers never quit.

Watercolor paintings and free verse support a child’s recollection of an oft-forgotten portion of history: The 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike in Memphis, Tennessee. Little Lorraine Jackson witnesses her parents, including her father, a garbage worker, fight for a freedom that’s never free, while gaining hope and peaceful support from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Throughout the story, readers and listeners alike learn what led to the strike – maltreatment and unequal conditions given black sanitation workers, which including less pay and the death of two workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, crushed inside a malfunctioning garbage truck after denial of warm shelter during a rainstorm.

These conditions led to Dr. King’s arrival in support of the strike, leading to his greatest speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” and sadly, for the world, his assassination.

* Beautiful Watercolor illustrations. Paintings, rich in vibrancy, illustrate family, protests, and the aftermath of the strike.

* Child-friendly Recollection of History. Lorraine’s a clear story narrator offering definitions and explanations children of all ages will grasp as they read the tale. Nothing’s too horrid or gratuitous. Seen through a child’s eyes, the story resonates with all willing to listen and learn. Ms. Duncan clearly does her homework. As a Memphis-based librarian, she knows how to pique a child’s interest in stories. Illustrations and text never clash. Also, she scored the right book length, along with sources for educators to continue the conversation.

* Diverse Formatting. Poetry weaves itself into the text to give, not only an academic perspective but an emotional perspective. Not only do you learn, but you empathize with young Lorraine as she sees the struggle for humanity fall before her.

* Adults Learn Too. As aforementioned, the strike is seldom taught in schools nowadays, and if it is, it’s washed over completely. In the text, you get names of those involved, consequences, and what ultimately happened after the strike’s end. A good children’s nonfiction tale often involves instances for adults to learn as they share in the reading.

* Its Title. I would have preferred a title harkening back to Lorraine, instead of Dr. King and his famous speech, especially since the story’s from Lorraine’s eyes and not from the storied speech mentioned near the end.

Small con, indeed – one that fails to steal a star from my or anyone’s experience.

Highly recommend, this tale deserves a place not only school libraries but personal ones as well.

Verdict: 5/5 Crafty Scribbles, well worthy of the Kirkus Magazine STAR review prized.

Author: Crafty Scribbles

Lover of Words. Mother. Teacher. Traveler. Writer. Bionic woman against ignorance. Finding the balance between words and reality. M.Ed. built to school you.