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Child of the Civil Rights Movement (Junior Library Guild Selection) Hardcover – December 22, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Conversation Between Author Paula Young Shelton and Illustrator Raul Colón

We asked author Paula Young Shelton and illustrator Raul Colón to talk about Child of the Civil Rights Movement, Shelton's poignant and hopeful story of growing up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Paula Young Shelton is the daughter of civil rights leader and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young. She is a teacher in Washington, D.C., and a member of the National Black Child Development Institute. Raul Colón's work has appeared in numerous publications, but he is especially renowned for his children’s book illustrations, including My Mama Had A Dancing Heart, Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel, Angela and the Baby Jesus, and As Good as Anybody. Read on to discover how Paula and Raul worked together to capture, through words and images, a pivotal moment in American history.

Raul Colón: Why did you write the book in the first place?

Paula Young Shelton: I got the idea for this book after telling my students stories about the civil rights movement as part of our study of Martin Luther King. They became so interested in hearing about my "Uncle Martin" that I realized it was a good way for young people to connect with Dr. King, and I started writing the stories down.

Raul Colón: Have you written any others before or since?

Paula Young Shelton: I have always loved to write and have written quite a few "yet to be published" stories. My first book was actually written as my master's thesis and I've got a few stories brewing now, so I hope to keep writing.

Raul Colón: Did you interview your family or any other folks to refresh your memory, since it all happened during your early childhood?

Paula Young Shelton: Absolutely, I talked a lot to my sisters about their memories and, of course, my dad.

Raul Colón: What was the procedure you followed in order to make time to write this story? Did you wake up early, or did you write at all times, say while you rode the train, etc.?

Paula Young Shelton: As a teacher, I get the summers off, so I did the majority of writing during the summer, when I can focus on it for long periods. With three kids, a husband, and a job, it's sometimes hard to find the time to write, so during the year I would write late at night, when the house is quiet. I'm more of a night owl than early bird.

Raul Colón: You seem ready for another picture book. How much did you enjoy this experience?

Paula Young Shelton: It has been a real thrill! All the things I dreaded, like working with an editor or an illustrator I didn't know, turned out to be great experiences. The editor, Anne Schwartz, was incredible and made me really appreciate watching her cut my work to pieces. She helped me to focus the story and really made it flow nicely.

As for the illustrator, I was blown away by the pictures you produced. Some of them were exactly how I had envisioned them in my mind's eye, and others were more beautiful than I could have imagined. I can't wait to do it all over again!

Raul, everyone loves the picture of the crow and it is such a powerful image. What made you draw the picture of the huge crow above the little girl's head like that?

Raul Colón: Initially I had thought of drawing a mean-looking face. But looking through some art book I had, I saw some interesting pictures of black crows and decided to use the visual pun for this piece.

Paula Young Shelton: Besides, of course, my book, what has been your favorite book to illustrate, and why?

Raul Colón: Besides your book, I have quite a few others I truly enjoyed. But I must say that the most significant book I illustrated was my first one, Always My Dad. It won accolades and awards, and opened up the floodgates.

Paula Young Shelton: You've illustrated a few books on civil rights issues. Is that your choice, or just a coincidence?

Raul Colón: I did these books on Civil Rights but it was just a matter of timing. A coincidence.

Paula Young Shelton: I love the scratching effect in your artwork. How do you do that?

Raul Colón: I use a very "sophisticated" instrument called a Scratcher(TM), believe it or not. I etch the paper before I add the final layers of color.

Paula Young Shelton: I get such a great response to the book because of the amazing pictures. Would you illustrate my next book?

Raul Colón: Send the manuscript.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Kindergarten-Grade 3—When the author was a child, her father, Andrew Young, was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Her first picture book beautifully captures her childhood during those events that radically changed America. One episode recalls Shelton's unique contribution to the integration of restaurants. When white owners refused to seat her family, Shelton sat down and cried loudly, an action she calls "my very first protest, my own little sit-in." With this incident, she helps modern children understand the hurtful effects of segregation. Shelton also recalls how the movement united its leaders. The Youngs, the Kings, and other activists became like family because they "were brought together by a common goal." This positive tone prevails throughout the book, which ends with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Colón's luminous watercolors effectively underscore the text's optimistic viewpoint, imbuing scenes of struggle with light that represents the activists' hope for positive results. The book therefore balances honesty about the challenges of the movement with the hope that inspired activists to continue their efforts. An author's note explains how Shelton does not always remember conversations verbatim, but draws on her family's shared memories. The back matter includes information about the leaders who are mentioned. History comes alive in this vivid account.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 960L (What's this?)
  • Series: Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade; 1 edition (December 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375843140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375843143
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Paula Young Shelton has written a wonderful book explaining the reason for the Civil Rights Movement. This is something that children and adults under 50 often do not understand. Thankfully, our era is different, but we need to appreciate why the change happened. It is also touching that families were engaged in the movement. It gives history a humanity that is seldom conveyed.

The beautiful illustrations make this a great book to read aloud to any age.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By dclibrarian on January 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Paula Young Shelton has written an authentic and instructive memoir of her family's participation in the Civil Rights Movement. Divided into meaningful moments, both illustration and text work together perfectly to paint a picture children will understand. Particularly effective are her explanations of Jim Crow Laws and "The Civil Rights Family." The collaboration of Young Shelton and Colon is a real success. As a librarian, I look forward to sharing this picture book with groups of all ages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Told from the perspective of young Paula Shelton whose father, Andrew Young, was one of the civil rights leaders in the Civil Rights movement, this is a well-written book filled with wonderful anecdotes about life during those hard times. Paula was a very young child when her family, who had been residing in New York, decided to move back to Georgia to actively participate in the fledgling Civil Rights movement.

Seeing this movement from a child's perspective is enlightening - young Paula, just 4 years old, thinks Jim Crow is a mean old crow that prevents black people from sitting where they want. It is only later that she realizes he was a racist who made fun of African Americans like Paula. She recounts her experiences with racism and segregation when her family is turned away from a Holiday Inn restaurant which serves only white customers. She describes family dinners where famous names from the civil rights movement gathered to discuss their next steps - names like Randolph Blackwell, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young (Paula's father), James Orange, Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton, Jean Childs Young (Paula's mother), and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Together they form a "family" unit that collaborate to strive for social justice and equality - and this includes of course the famous march from Selma to Montgomery, and culminates in President Johnson's signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This is truly an inspiring read and by using the perspective of a young child, it makes it easier for young readers to engage with the story. An inspiring read and a must-have for any school and home library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Shepperd on March 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My seven year old and I have read Child of the Civil Rights Movement together many times and just the other day when my 77 year old father came to visit, I handed him the book and he wanted to take it with him. I've already ordered another one.

In this book, Martin Luther King is first, a playful uncle at the Ollie Street pool, ready to toss his niece in the water. The Civil Rights Movement is channeled through a family in the midst of the struggle. Not just any family, Andrew Young's family and they have voluntarily given up their New York ease to return to the South to help. They argue in symphony and eat macaroni and cheese. The reader feels wrapped up in time and in spite of the battle, warm in the grasp of an extended loving family that together strive and work for what is right, for the rights that belong to all human beings. The story is so wonderful and not just because it is about a victory that we all know, but underlying the story is another truth. Together, families, neighbors, people make the burden light when they carry the weight collectively.

Child of the Civil Rights Movement travels from New York, to Atlanta, Selma to Montgomery, and made this reader nostalgic for the greens, the sweet tea, the old neighborhood, the power and passion of the movement and finally too, even grandmother's house. When togetherness was simply a way of life, from house to house there was always a welcome, and often, a meal.

The illustrations are lush and warm. You'll want to read this book again and again. Your children will ask you questions each time and you'll want to answer them.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Woods on January 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a perfect book for parents and children to read together about the experience of being a child of a civil rights leader. I loved the image of Dr. King in his bathing suit playing with children at the YMCA pool. We get a behind-the-scenes picture of him as a family man and appreciate that his dreams for our nation were far more than rhetoric. Modern parents will marvel at how the movement was organized around the kitchen table. This book is destined to become a conversation piece for all families who want to understand our history.
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Format: Hardcover
Little Paula was from New York where Jim Crow didn't live, but when her family "saw something called the Freedom Riders" on the news it was time to head back to their Southern roots. More people were needed and the Young family quickly packed to join in and help the protesters. Of course Paula thought that Jim Crow was a big old crow that lived in Georgia. When any black person got on the bus and grabbed a decent seat it would say "CAWWW. CAWWW, you can't sit there!" That really wasn't the case, but little girls think literally at times. What he really was, was a mean old white man who made fun of African Americans.

Her Daddy, Andrew Young, and her Mama Jean "decided to see how far things had really come." After church they went to a new Holiday Inn. There were many empty seats, but would they be allowed in. No, no, no. Andrea was hungry and plopped down on the floor and began to wail. Her own protest was allowed to continue, but to no avail. Her aunts and uncles would continue her protest, but would they succeed? Randolph Blackwell, Hosea Williams, James Orange, Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others were all there as a "family." Would a family be able to succeed where the individual had failed?

This is the type of book that is so impressive it actually made the hair stand up on my arms by the time I reached the end. Told from the point of view of a young child, Paula Young Shelton, who actually experienced the joys, the heartbreak and the violence of the civil rights movement through her own and "extended" family it made it all the more poignant. As a young child she knew most of the activists as aunts and uncles, but they were truly family in every sense of the word. The illustrations were stunning and contributed greatly to this brief historical overview of the civil rights movement. This stunning book is one you should seriously consider adding to your homeschool or library shelves!
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