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March: Book One Paperback – August 13, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–Beginning with a dream sequence that depicts the police crackdown on the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March, this memoir then cuts to Congressman John Lewis's preparations on the day of President Obama's inauguration. Lewis provides perspective on the occasion, explaining and describing his own religious and desegregationalist origins in Alabama, his early meeting with Dr. King, and his training as a nonviolent protester. The bulk of the narrative centers around the lunch counter sit-ins in 1959 and 1960 and ends on the hopeful note of a public statement by Nashville Mayor West. The narration feels very much like a fascinating firsthand anecdote and, despite a plethora of personal details and unfamiliar names, it never drags. Even with the contemporary perspective, the events never feel like a foregone conclusion, making the stakes significant and the work important. The narration particularly emphasizes the nonviolent aspect of the movement and the labor involved in maintaining that ideal. The artwork is full of lush blacks and liquid brushstrokes and features both small period details and vast, sweeping vistas that evoke both the reality of the setting and the importance of the events. This is superb visual storytelling that establishes a convincing, definitive record of a key eyewitness to significant social change, and that leaves readers demanding the second volume.–Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NHα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Congressman Lewis, with Michael D’Orso’s assistance, told his story most impressively in Walking with the Wind (1998). Fortunately, it’s such a good story—a sharecropper’s son rises to eminence by prosecuting the cause of his people—that it bears retelling, especially in this graphic novel by Lewis, his aide Aydin, and Powell, one of the finest American comics artists going. After a kicker set on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965 (the civil rights movement’s Bloody Sunday), the story makes January 20, 2009 (President Obama’s inauguration) a base of operations as it samples Lewis’ past via his reminiscences for two schoolboys and their mother, who’ve shown up early at his office on that milestone day for African Americans. This first of three volumes of Lewis’ story brings him from boyhood on the farm, where he doted over the chickens and dreamed of being a preacher, through high school to college, when he met nonviolent activists who showed him a means of undermining segregation—to begin with, at the department-store lunch counters of Nashville. Powell is at his dazzling best throughout, changing angle-of-regard from panel to panel while lighting each with appropriate drama. The kineticism of his art rivals that of the most exuberant DC and Marvel adventure comics—and in black-and-white only, yet! Books Two and Three may not surpass Book One, but what a grand work they’ll complete. --Ray Olson
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Top Customer Reviews
Congressman John Lewis is an iconic figure within the Civil Rights movement, and the last surviving member of the "big six leadership." He rose from being the son of sharecropper, to marching with Martin Luther King, and to the halls of Congress. This first book in a planned trilogy covers John Lewis's youth in rural Alabama, his first meeting with Martin Luther King, the birth of the Nashville Student movement, and the battle for desegregation on the steps of City Hall. And it comes to an end all to quickly. I finished the book saying "but, but...I want more! I need the rest of the story now!" And that's such a great way to leave readers, clamoring for the next part of the story. It's a powerful and moving story to see a firsthand account of the triumphs and sorrows of being involved in this time period in history.
Now I'm sure the first question many are asking is...why a graphic novel? Couldn't this be done in written form and come out just as well. And the answer would be...no. It's one thing to read about the horrors or having water tossed on you, or being beaten, all because of the color of your skin. It's a completely different matter to see it illustrated. The illustrations are masterful and you can imagine the smoke being blown in your face, someone standing over you and spitting upon you, and others throwing water or hot coffee in your face. It's a powerful image that you won't be able to shake. And one that you won't be able too, or want to forget.
One of the problem that I normally see with autobiographical stories, is that they often try to give the reader to much information or even sometimes not enough information. They forget that we aren't all familiar with the history of an individual. But this book doesn't suffer any such problem. We move expertly between past and present, as John Lewis gives a tour to children from his district and explains his past. It's a great way to set up the story. And more importantly you don't ever feel like you're missing out on something.
Nate Powell's artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It's done in his typical grace/style of capturing the human form oh so perfectly and it seems like this time he's gone even further in his use of shading to give us the beauty of all different types of skin tones, each character's is unique. His artwork is perfectly suited for this story capturing the range and intensity of emotions--the sorrow, the joy, and the fear that sends chills down your spine. That intensity, that feeling of life that he captures in their faces really makes them come alive.
You can't help but feel moved by this story and you can't walk away unchanged. The combination of story and art works perfectly in capturing this event and this time period. I'm predicting this book will be one of the best graphic novels of the year, perhaps even one of the best books of the year. I started recommending it to my faculty as soon as I heard about it. And one that I can't wait for them to teach from. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.