Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

M.L.K: Journey of a King

M.L.K: Journey of a King

Tonya Bolden
For ages 12 and up
Abrams, 2007   ISBN: 978-0810954762

Most of us know that Martin Luther King Jr. was a vital leader in the civil rights movement. We know that he was a powerful speaker who could move people to tears by his words and fill them with hope for the future. We know that he worked for most of his life for racial justice for his people. What many of us don’t know is that Martin Luther King Jr. had an even bigger hope for the future. Yes, he did want his people to have the same freedoms and opportunities as white people, but he also hoped that one day it would be possible to have a “beloved community” where people of all races and religions could live together. He strived for world peace and was appalled by the cruelties of war, and he was not afraid to protest against the Vietnam War.

In addition, we often fail to realize that underneath his calm and supportive exterior, Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who had feelings and fears, who got tired and despondent. He loved his wife and his children. He feared for them when they were threatened and attacked by angry people who hated what he was doing. He feared for himself too. He knew he was a target and he spoke not infrequently about his conviction that someone would end up killing him. He sometimes wished that he could live a normal, quiet life that would allow him to be with his family, a life that would be safe and secure. But he set aside this wish again and again because a cause bigger than himself needed him.

Martin Luther King Jr. despaired when his people resorted to violence after he had tried so hard to impress on them the need to always “turn the other cheek.” He sometimes feared that everything he was doing, and all the sacrifices that were being made, would come to nothing. He sometimes made mistakes in his campaigns and he sometimes paid dearly for those mistakes. He was human, and he carried with him all the baggage and problems that being a human entails.

Learning about this human side of the man Martin Luther King Jr., this worried, tired, and sometimes frightened Martin Luther King Jr, does make one admire his work any less. In fact it makes his achievements and his courage all the more laudable because he pressed on and fought on in spite of it all. He continued to do what was needed of him because it was the right thing to do.

This book not only tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life but it also shows the reader his human side and it shows us that he had the same feelings and failings that we all are prone too. As a result, as we turn the last pages, we see not just a famous man whose work and words had a lasting impact on the world, but we have a deeper appreciation for the man who basically was so much like all of us.

This beautifully written book not only gives us a powerful picture of a great person, but it is packed with heavily annotated photographs and numerous quotations. It is superbly presented and it is, without a doubt, one of the best children’s books available on this subject.