Coretta Scott King: Dare to Dream by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1994.
Biography, 81 pages including index.
Lexile: 790L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Part of the Women of Our Time Series.
A middle-grade biography of Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a civil rights activist herself.
I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the Women of Our Time series. So far, this is the only book featuring a woman of color in the current series. An older version of the series might have been more inclusive. The current nine books include 8 white women, one of whom is Jewish (Golda Meir) and another of whom is deaf and blind (Helen Keller). Laura Ingalls Wilder is included, but there are no indigenous women represented.
I’m also a bit of a cover snob, and this cover is not very appealing. However, we love Angela Shelf Medearis. Everything I’ve read by her (picture or chapter book, fiction or nonfiction) has been top notch. Her name on the cover was inducement enough to buy, especially since I’d been looking for a more in-depth biography of Coretta Scott King.
Medearis’ writing held up. Unfortunately the illustrations did not. This book contains tiny black-and white illustrations reproduced in the midst of the text which appear to have originally been intended for a different format. The illustrations are not very well spaced. There might be a few pages of text only, and then two illustrations over a two-page spread. The focus on some appears to be off, and on others it’s difficult to see Coretta Scott King.
Thankfully, as we get to the middle of the book, the illustrations are gradually phased out in favor of photographs of King. This is much better. The odd spacing remains (perhaps this was a publishing decision that made the book less costly?), but makes more sense given that certain events were more likely to be photographed. The photos, unlike the illustrations, come with captions that help place them at a particular point in the story.
Medearis continues to be one of my favorite children’s book authors. She does not shy away from portraying the difficult times King faced (unequal schooling, racial violence, house burning, the death of her husband) but does so in language appropriate for young readers.
Even when she unflinchingly describes horrid realities, Medearis consistently acknowledges King’s feelings about the events. There is a strong moral thread throughout the book, from the Scott family’s early emphasis on hard work and education to Dr. King’s bravery.
I was especially pleased with chapter eight, which deals with King’s life after her husband’s death. So many accounts just stop when he dies. This chapter covers her work fighting apartheid, advocating for MLK Jr. Day, and more. Medearis also recommends King’s book My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., which I’d heard of before but somehow neglected to add to my TBR.
In the end, while this biography was flawed in illustrations and publishing decisions, I would still recommend it to the target audience. The publisher recommends this for ages 7 and up, and Medearis does such a great job of addressing difficult topics in an age-appropriate way that I would agree, even though the reading level would mark it as a middle school book. We will definitely continue to seek out her books!