Early Chapter Book Review: A Man Who Changed Things

“She told M.L. how white people brought black people to America. They made black people slaves. Then in 1863, the United States government said black people were free. But some white people still thought they were better than black people.” p. 7

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man Who Changed Things by Carol Greene.
Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1989, this edition 1999.
Early chapter book nonfiction – biography, 46 pages + index.
Lexile: Not Lexiled
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 0.5 pts)

This book is a prime example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (although we all do sometimes).  When I was on a buying rampage as we began the thirty day project, this title came up on my Amazon suggestions repeatedly, but the cover was so irritating that I couldn’t stand to waste money on a book with such lackluster pictures.

Sometime later, I was browsing my local used bookstore and saw the book again, but at a steep discount.  I decided to glance through and was delighted to see that 1) It is not illustrated as the cover would indicate but uses photographs, and 2) it is an early chapter book.  I immediately bought it and am so glad I came across it in person.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man Who Changed Things by Carol Greene.

This book is part of Houghton Mifflin’s Soar to Success reading intervention program, which is used in some schools as extra help and others as a reading program.  Some teachers also use the books to supplement their classroom library.  Although it might sound weird because this is a very thin chapter book which looks more like a picture book than your typical chapter book, this is a textbook and will likely come with textbook markings.

There are five chapters, followed by a one-page list of important dates and a one-page index.  Although this is a biography and covers major events in MLK’s life, it focuses on the child-specific events, and so is a little different to most other books about him.

The first chapter focuses on “M.L.” not being able to play with his white friend once they started school.  His mother gives him a brief synopsis of slavery and racism and reassures him that he is equal to anybody.  Then it talks a little bit about his family and favorite childhood activities.

Chapter two covers on high school, college (both completed while in his teens), Martin’s decision to become a minister, and his introduction to Gandhi.  Chapter three deals with his marriage, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  The end of the chapter introduces his own children and tells a story about Yoki.

Chapter four is relatively short and summarizes his activity in Birmingham, the March on Washington, and the I Have a Dream speech before following up on the Yoki story.  Chapter five deals with Martin winning his Nobel Peace Prize, Selma, and his assassination and burial.

MLK: Man Who Changed Things p. 38 & 39

The photographs vary with some being in color and others black and white, but all are relevant to the topics being discussed.  Each photograph has a caption, but the captions use more sophisticated language which could be read either by a parent/teacher, or independently by an older child.

The text/picture ratio does vary, I would assume simply because there are more photographs of certain events or times in his life.  Since this is not intended for read-aloud, the balance is perfectly adequate.  The two-page spreads have at least one photograph and some have quite a few more.

There are points at which the language may sound odd or awkwardly phrased to the adult reader.  That is particular to early readers and part of phrasing the text so that developing readers can handle this book independently.  The text is a larger size, and sentences are broken down into phrases on each line for easier reading.

Although some might be turned off by the dated cover or the black-and-white photographs, this is my favorite early reader MLK biography (so far).  Once I start a kid reading it, they always continue, but the cover is a huge deterrent.  I hope they do an updated version!


Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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