We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 21 this year, and we are called to remember the way he spoke of hope and love and respect to America. He taught this country that truth, justice, and dignity are timeless values that must be upheld if we are to move forward together. The list below includes books that commemorate this man’s life and dream as we continue to try to make it a reality. For more information about this holiday, visit The King Center website.
To find more books about Martin Luther King Jr. or the Civil Rights era, try searching the catalog using a combination of subject terms like “juvenile fiction” for fiction books or “juvenile literature” for nonfiction books along with “King, Martin Luther, Jr.,” “Civil rights movements,” “segregation,” or other key words.
M.L.K.: Journey of a King. 2006 (Biography: Chapter Book)
Separated into three parts, this large format biography tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and advocacy in the civil rights movement. With an easy to read format that includes pictures and sidebars to break up the text, readers will have no problems staying engaged in his amazing journey. Many historical black and white photographs are included, which add to the immersive experience and show readers what it was really like. An author’s note, timeline, sources, and index are included at the end, making this a comprehensive source on MLK’s life that readers will love to explore.
[S-Collection SB. K537b]
Let the Children March. 2018 (Fiction: Picture Book)
It’s 1963, and after hearing Martin Luther King Jr. speak, children in Birmingham, Alabama have volunteered to march. This evocative picture book shows us how these children wanted to fight for their civil rights and racial equality just like the adults in their lives. Using their voices to make a difference, young readers will be inspired to see that they too can participate in social justice movements to change the world.
[S-Collection SE. C559le, also in the CCB]
Duncan, Alice Faye.
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968. 2018 (Picture Book)
Told from the point of view of 9-year-old Lorraine Jackson, readers learn about a part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s advocacy that is not often shared. Full page illustrations provide the backdrop for Lorraine’s memories about the sanitation strike that are told in little vignettes. With the inspirational idea that “dreamers don’t quit,” the historical facts of the march that MLK organized before his assassination in Memphis are presented in an accessible story format that focuses on Lorraine and her family, including her sanitation worker father. With a timeline of the strike and sources at the end of the book, this is a beautiful tribute to King’s life as well as how hard regular individuals fought for their rights.
[S-Collection Q. S. D9124me]
Farris, Christine King.
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2003 (Nonfiction: Picture Book)
Written by Martin’s sister Christine, we get to see MLK as a child and what he was like before he became the famous activist. Detailed and realistic illustrations bring their childhood to life, where we hear about how Martin pulled pranks with his brother and sister and his determination to fight for change. This picture book is a very accessible introduction to segregation and racism from the eyes of a child that also shares how important it is to stand up for what is right.
[S-Collection Q. S.323.092 F249m]
A Tugging String: A Novel About Growing Up During the Civil Rights Era. 2008 (Fiction: Chapter Book)
Written by the son of Jack Greenberg, a civil rights lawyer who argued Brown v. Board, about growing up during this turbulent time, this fictional novel has real emotional impact. Duvy Greenberg is 12 and just trying to fit in. Meanwhile, Dorothy Milton is a black woman trying to register to vote in Alabama who reaches out to Martin Luther King Jr. for help. Despite his father’s career as a civil rights lawyer, this is the string that tugs on Duvy’s heart and opens his eyes to the racial inequality around him. Based on the Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March, the 8 pages of inset black and white historical photographs add to the reality and gravity of this story about standing up for what you believe in.
[S-Collection S. G8293tu]
Jackson, Linda Williams.
Midnight Without a Moon (Rose Lee Carter #1). 2017 (Historical Fiction: Chapter Book)
It’s 1955, and 13-year-old Rose Lee Carter dreams that there has to be something beyond the cotton fields of Mississippi, where she is living for the moment with her sharecropper grandparents. Everything suddenly changes when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy in the next town over, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Rose comes to realize that she should be part of the movement that is fighting for equality. While Rose is a fictional character, Emmett Till’s trial was a spark that inspired people to fight for change and equality within the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King Jr. was helping to lead, and readers will root for her as she learns to fight for what is right.
[S-Collection S. J1359mi, also in the CCB]
Be sure to check out the sequel, A Sky Full of Stars, also in the S-Collection (S. J1359s)!
King, Martin Luther, Jr. & Kadir Nelson.
I Have a Dream. 2012 (Nonfiction: Picture Book)
This picture book takes the text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech and pairs it with beautiful, full page illustrations of that historical day. It is a perfect way to share his words with a younger audience and provides a starting point for a discussion about MLK and his life. The thought-provoking images question segregation, equality, and justice and inspire readers with what King’s dream would look like as a reality. The full-text of his speech is included at the end for curious adult readers.
[S-Collection Q. S.323.092 K585i2012, also in the CCB]
Miller, Marilyn, Ellen Scordato, & Dan Tucker.
Words That Built a Nation: Voices of Democracy That Have Shaped America’s History. 2018 (Nonfiction)
Filled with inspiring words that have created this nation, this book is a must for readers who want to learn about the statements that have affected our country and the ideals we hold. From the Declaration of Independence to Brown v. Board, the March on Washington Address by Martin Luther King Jr., and Obama’s Speech on Race, readers will love to peruse this resource and learn about our history. The engaging format includes an introduction to each document, the famous words themselves, pictures – both illustrations and historical, a bottom bar explaining the history, about the author, and the response to the words. It is very accessible and informative – perfect for the curious mind.
[S-Collection S.973 M616w2018]
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2001 (Biography: Picture Book)
A Caldecott Honor Book in 2002, this picture book biography is still notable today. Direct quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. are used to enhance and emphasize the hopeful message of everyone living together in harmony, and the multimedia illustrations are used to create powerful images that provoke thought and discussion. This celebration of his life is inspiring, and the timeline and additional sources in the back make this ideal for using with children who are learning about this influential man.
[S-Collection Q. SB. K53ra]
Weatherford, Carole Boston.
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You. 2018 (Biography: Picture Book)
“You can be a king” – the inspirational refrain repeated throughout – helps share with children how they can spread love and fight for justice. With parallel story lines of a class learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and pivotal moments of his life, this book helps readers learn to see things from other people’s points of view and how important it is to treat them fairly. The simple watercolor paintings and short text make this an easy introduction to MLK and his dreams.
[S-Collection SB. K537w]