History Maker Bios: Coretta Scott King by Laura Hamilton Waxman, illustrations by Tad Butler.
Originally published by Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, my edition Barnes & Noble, New York, 2008.
Biography, 48 pages including extras and index.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 4.5 (worth 1.0 points) .
A biography of Coretta Scott King, best known as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., although she was a civil rights activist herself as well.
Not long ago, I came across a Barnes and Noble that had all these little History Maker Bios and quite a lot of Sterling Biographies on clearance for a dollar each! I spent a happy hour picking out all the African American ones.
We already know a good amount about King, so this book was an independent read rather than a read-aloud for us, and that’s probably a good thing. One issue I had was the sentence structure used throughout. The vast majority of the book follows the same simple sentence pattern, with the occasional clause to break it up.
To be fair, this didn’t bother the children at all, and probably helped them. But I felt like the author was accustomed to working on shorter picture book early readers and brought that sensibility here.
The book is broken down into five chapters of about 6-10 pages each. Chapter one is about King’s early life, chapter two focuses on her time at school in the North (ending with her marriage), chapter three is about their time in Montgomery, chapter four covers their further work until Martin’s death, and chapter five focuses on her life after his passing.
The aspect of this book that I most appreciated was that it kept the focus on Coretta. So many books end with her husband’s passing although she lived for several decades longer. The actual event of the shooting is glossed over (since she wasn’t there), and merely states what occurred. In contrast, the Montgomery bombing is given a full paragraph with much more detail.
As one might surmise from the cover, this biography uses photographs and illustrations. For Coretta’s early years, photographs of places or people engaged in similar activities are used. Afterwards, the book strikes a decent balance of old classics and less familiar photos. Each chapter has a half-page header featuring one of the drawings from the cover. Text boxes also help to break up the pages; I was particularly enamored of the one on page 38 telling about the Coretta Scott King Award.
Every page had a photograph, drawing, or text box along with one to three paragraphs of the main text. This biography does contain some challenging words (professional, confidence, personality), but due to the repetitive sentence structure and the frequent breaks, I felt that this could be read by younger students who are willing to work through reading the difficult words.
While this was not my favorite biography of Coretta Scott King, it does fill a need. A mere 48 pages including timeline, index, further reading, bibliography, and a short note about the King Center, this is one of those rare books that I’d consider an elementary chapter book. This could be used with 2nd to 5th graders who need to read a biography and write about a particular subject.
This could also serve as a Hi-Lo reader for middle school students who need to learn about biographies but require a lower reading level. This overview contained all the necessary facts and a few interesting tidbits. Though my first pick would always be high-quality literature for teaching non-fiction, this is an acceptable and approachable biography of King.