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14:14 PB ELEMENTS – Child of the Civil Rights Movement – THEME

February 24, 2015

Child of Civil Rights MvmtA front row seat in a theatre is fine, but the best view of the play is on the stage.  Paula Young Shelton, daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, shares her view in this first person point-of-view story.

A Child of the Civil Rights Movement
author Paula Young Shelton
illustrator Raul Colon

(c) 2013, Schwartz & Wade Books,
a division of Random House

(1,796 words, AR Reading Level 4.8 )

It was a long-distance view of the turmoil in the south–black and white television images of burning buses, arrests and beatings–that drew Paula’s parents Andrew Young  and Jean Childs Young back home to help fight violence and prejudice. They took Paula and her sisters onto the stage with them.

The element of THEME in Paula’s story is evident. There is a pursuit of equality and freedom. But supporting themes are just as important and critical in this story. From the first spread, the theme of family is strong. It becomes an immediate vehicle for the action, the emotion, the character development that takes place in this wonderful history.

“Mama was from Alabama.
Daddy was from Louisiana–
the Deep South.
They had been called bad names, treated badly, told, “You can’t do that!”
just because of the color of their skin.”

In subsequent ‘chapters’ (well designed sections the story) we follow Paula’s journey with her family to her account of “My First Protest,” which happened in a Holiday Inn restaurant when she was younger than four.  She sat on the floor and cried loudly as her family was denied service.

In “Uncle Martin” we learn of the ‘extended’ family relationships that were such a driving force in the movement for equality.   “The Civil Rights Family” shows us that this theme of family was full of emotion, sometimes disagreement, sometimes celebration, and good food.

“No matter how many people came to dinner, there was always enough to go around, enough to strengthen, enough to comfort the family of the civil rights movement.”

In “Selma to Montgomery” the pivotal event is remembered, as the Young’s entire family goes to Alabama to participate. Paula’s memory of this event is rich with the bonds of family as they share the passion for freedom with a world-wide family:

“I looked around and saw so many different kinds of people. Black and white. Young and old. Rich and poor. There were Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests, and lots and lots of Baptist ministers. There was even a man with one leg who everybody called Sunshine.

Like so many good books, the story cycles around to another scene with a television screen. Here again, in black and white flickering images, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  Faces keenly familiar to Paula and her sisters appear on the screen beside him.

I found that the theme of family that Mrs. Shelton uses in her story adds so much validity to the overall theme of freedom and equality.  What might be somewhat abstract concepts to young children are perhaps defined, clarified, and validated by the underlying theme of family that most children know.

I think this book is masterfully done, and should be out in every library and bookstore, not just in February but all year long. And if you haven’t seen the movie Selma yet, check this book out first–and read it to your kids.

(See a list of other reviewers’ posts in Christi’s latest post at Write Wild.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2015 12:07 pm

    Sounds like a great addition, and I like how it sounds like this book tells a broader story, not just one event or one important moment. Will be checking this one out!

  2. February 24, 2015 3:04 pm

    Wow! Sounds like a great book from a child’s perspective. I think that can be so hard to accomplish. Thanks for sharing this book!

  3. ManjuBeth permalink
    February 24, 2015 5:43 pm

    The voice sounds like a child, in word choice and phrasing. I look forward to reading the whole story.

  4. February 24, 2015 8:25 pm

    Yes, I have seen Selma. It was very powerful. Nice to know there’s a picture book with the same power available for younger readers.

  5. February 25, 2015 10:56 am

    Another great example of a book with multiple strong (and such important!) themes. And I really love how you tie the two themes together at the end of your review.

  6. February 28, 2015 5:16 pm

    I like how you write about supporting themes. They make the whole stronger.

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