Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Duncan relays the story of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, which was triggered after two black sanitation workers died when their poorly maintained truck malfunctioned. After the incident, Mayor Henry Loeb refused to meet the demands of the newly formed sanitation workers' union for better pay, treatment, and safety standards, and 1,300 men walked off the job. Duncan writes in fervent free verse from the perspective of Lorraine Jackson, a fictional girl whose father joins the strike and who is loosely based on Almella Starks-Umoja, a teacher who marched in strike protests with her parents as a child. Lorraine's narrative is passionate and personal: "My daddy... marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me." As violence erupts, and Martin Luther King Jr. arrives to deliver his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech the day before his assassination, the emotional tenor of Lorraine's story builds, cresting with the strike's settlement: "So much was won. So much was lost. Freedom is never free." Christie's vivid, emotive gouache paintings feature a montage of powerful panoramas and portraits, including those of the protesters, King, and Lorraine's family. Ages 9-12. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Fifty years on, readers reminisce with a young black girl who recalls how black sanitation workers launched a movement for equal rights and safer working conditions and stayed committed to justice amid tragic loss. Basing her story on the true accounts of Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, Duncan creates 9-year-old Lorraine Jackson to tell the full story of the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. The story begins not with the entrance of Martin Luther King, who would arrive in March, but in January, when the tragic deaths of two black garbagemen due to old, malfunctioning equipment added to calls for change. The author's choice to not focus on the singular efforts of King but on the dedicated efforts of community signals a deeply important lesson for young readers. Strong historical details back up the organizing feat: "In the morning and afternoon, for sixty-five days, sanitation workers marched fourteen blocks through the streets of downtown Memphis." The narrative is set in vignettes that jump between verse and prose, set against Christie's bold paintings. Lorraine learns that "Dreamers never quit" after reminiscing on what would be Dr. King's final lecture, delivered on April 3. The struggle doesn't end with King's death but continues with the spotlight cast by Coretta Scott King on the sanitation workers' demands. "Freedom is never free," Lorraine notes before closing with the thought that it remains our mission to "Climb up the MOUNTAINTOP!"Encapsulates the bravery, intrigue, and compassion that defined a generation, presenting a history that everyone should know: required and inspired. (Picture book. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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