Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge

39227394Lynn: If you are a regular reader of this blog you have heard us say over and over what a tremendous year it is for nonfiction. Sorry to sing the refrain again but, wow, what a year for nonfiction! Here is another remarkable nonfiction book that MUST be added to collections everywhere. This is Mother Lynn talking. Go add Marching for Freedom (Penguin/Viking, Oct. 2009) to your book orders right now! I don’t care that you already have a zillion books on the Civil Rights Movement. You need this one the minute it publishes.

Partridge quickly sets the stage with background information and then examines one pivotal period: January, 1965 to August, 1965, Selma and Montgomery Alabama. She then tightens her focus further on the teens and children who took part in those historic events. “I’d found the story I wanted to tell: how these kids changed history,” she says in her author’s note.” She tells the story superbly. As always with Partridge, the book is researched, written and documented with great care and thoughtfulness. Of special interest are the interviews with the young participants, now adults, whose courage and commitment to non-violence shine through even after all these years. It is inspiring stuff and the vivid text often soars as in this section where Partridge writes about the role of music:

“They took their defeat and sang their way back to strength…The music made them bigger than their defeat, bigger than their fear. It wove them together and filled them once more with courage and strength.”

Carefully selected black and white photographs perfectly highlight the writing. The sequence of pictures showing the heavily armed state troopers approaching the peaceful marchers and the horrifying violence that follows is especially illuminating. For so many of our young people, this period of time is long-ago history. Elizabeth Partridge brings this time to life. Readers will breathe in the atmosphere of tension and fear and gain a heartfelt appreciation of the courage, sacrifice and immense commitment of these young people – teens like themselves.

Cindy: Wow. Lynn is right. This book is a must purchase for middle school and probably high school too. I’m an admirer of all of Partridge’s books, and while this one is for a younger audience than either This Land Was Made for You and Me about Woody Guthrie or All I Want is the Truth about John Lennon, it maintains the author’s same meticulous research and ability to engage the reader.

Focusing on the children and teens who risked so much and exhibited such bravery, even when terrified, will really impact young readers today. For instance, the children were given lessons to protect themselves:

“Dodge any blows you could. If clubbed or kicked, curl into a tight ball and protect your stomach. If tear-gassed, drop to the ground to breathe, as the gas would slowly rise.”

I can’t wait to order this for my libraries and booktalk it to students and teachers. I’m just barely young enough to not remember these events firsthand, and no matter how many books I read about the Civil Rights Movement, it remains difficult for me to grasp that horrific events like Bloody Sunday happened just a short 44 years ago. We’ve made progress, surely, but we still have miles to go, and books like this can only help.

“Keep on a-walkin’

Keep on a-talkin’

Gonna build a brand new world.”




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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