Book Review: Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Words by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrations by Brian Pinkney
Poetry: Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Andrea Davis Pinkney
Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Three days later, I turned two years old. I only say that to put my age into the context: Dr. King’s murder has essentially been historical fact for me my entire life. When I began reading Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney (illustrated by her husband, Brian Pinkney), I was 51 years removed from the fact of his death. I knew how the story ended.
And I wept. I wept for a man who died when I was a toddler. I wept for a people who lost their shining light half a century ago. I wept for a nation whose conscience was slaughtered on a motel balcony in Memphis. I wept for myself and the loss of a hero I never knew while he was alive.
Martin Rising is so many things. The standard words we use for poetic works all apply: powerful, elegant, majestic, etc. Pinkney’s poems capture the cadence of the best of African American preaching. They are rhythmic. They are memorable. They read like they are meant to be spoken aloud to a church.
I think the word I would use, though, is “unexpected.” I did not expect them to hit my heart so strongly that I cried for a man who died before I could understand death. I did not expect Henny Penny to take on the role of Greek chorus. I did not expect the metaphors of stormy weather and of chicks hatching to hit me so hard. I did not expect the illustrations of King’s children to become blurry through my tears. I did not expect to laugh at the thought of grown men having a pillow fight. From beginning to end, Martin Rising was unexpected.
Martin Rising: Requiem for a King is the 2019 Lee Bennett Hopkins award winner for Children’s Poetry. I would not take away a well-deserved award, but I did not read this as a children’s book despite the exquisite illustrations. Martin Rising deserves a place on anyone’s shelf. Yes, children can appreciate the poetry and the cadence and the rhythms and the pictures. So will adults. Buy the book for your children or your grandchildren–but don’t be surprised if you end up shelving it with your more grown-up tomes.
Just, make sure you’ve got some tissues handy while you read.
The Pinkneys will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019 to receive the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year.