Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, April 20, 2017

No More Waiting

Working within the laws as set forth in the United States Constitution, the President of the United States has the ability and responsibility to build lasting institutions, promote programs and introduce new legislation designed for the good of all people.  Our thirty-fifth president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, on March 1, 1961 signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps.  It evolved from a speech made on the University of Michigan campus on October 14, 1960 several hours after midnight.

Let me say in conclusion, this University is not maintained by its alumni, or by the state, merely to help its graduates have an economic advantage in the life struggle.  There is certainly a greater purpose, and I'm sure you recognize it.  Therefore, I do not apologize for asking for your support in this campaign.  I come here tonight asking your support for this country over the next decade.

It is still flourishing today.

JFK believed in winning the space race.  On May 5, 1961 Alan B. Shepard, Jr. was the first American in space.  Twenty days later Kennedy during a speech to Congress strongly encouraged the United States to be the first country to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  (On July 20, 1969 our astronauts, Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin, were the first men to walk on the moon.)  John Glenn, on February 20, 1962, was launched into space becoming the first American to orbit Earth.

A United States President can set things in motion to create great change.  On my twelfth birthday, June 11, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy delivered a speech.  A Time To Act: John F. Kennedy's Big Speech (NorthSouth Books, April 4, 2017) written by Shana Corey with illustrations by R. Gregory Christie chronicles the life of this man prior to and after he spoke.

John F. Kennedy loved to read about history.  But history isn't just in books---it's happening all around us.

We all are a part of history.  We have the power to sway the course of events.  In the Kennedy family of nine children, Joe Kennedy, the oldest, was the favorite.  John, Jack, was not quite sure of his place.  Not only did Jack like to read, he was a writer.  He wrote a book in college which was published with the help of his father.

During World War II, the boat Jack commanded was ravaged.  He made sure the survivors made it to shore alive.  He was named a hero.  Joe was not as fortunate as Jack.  He died in his plane over the English Channel.  The plans Jack's father had for Joe were now shifted to Jack.

From serving six years as a congressman, Jack went to work as a senator.  During his tenure he married Jackie.  By 1960 he declared his intentions to run for president of the United States.  As Jack campaigned, the civil rights movement sought and fought peacefully through protest for equality.  Jack supported their movement in speeches, even offering to assist when Dr. Martin Luther King was imprisoned.

After his election his inauguration speech was an invitation for everyone to participate in helping our country.  President Kennedy was firm and fast on some issues but not for civil rights.  He was repeatedly urged by African American leaders to take action; men, women and children were doing everything possible.  It was not easy but hard and dangerous.  President Kennedy's speech on June 11, 1963 called for freedom for all as promised by President Lincoln.  Those same people who asked for his intervention were pleased with the speech.

Dr. Martin Luther King gave his I Have a Dream speech several months later.  President John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not live to see Congress pass his request for a civil rights law but President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2.  How will we keep making history?

When you live through moments of historical significance as a child or read about them years later, you might not be as aware of all the intricate pieces which shape the whole.  Shana Corey presents readers with those pieces offering us the opportunity to understand the influences which shaped the man who became our thirty-fifth president of the United States.  We meet young Jack, second to his older brother, Joe, writer Jack, hero Jack, politician Jack and campaigning-for-president Jack.

To better comprehend the context of the times in which Jack was running for president and when he served as president, Shana Corey depicts a very real picture of the civil rights movement.  It's as if we are there.  We are asking in our minds for the president to make a move for what is right.  This sense of living back in history is made authentic with specific details and quotations expertly woven into the narrative.  Here is a sample passage.

But on important civil rights issues, Jack was slow to act.
He once declared that the president must be willing to
get in the "thick of the fight."  But now he seemed unwilling
to fight some battles.
"I would like to be patient...," the famous baseball player 
Jackie Robinson wrote to Jack, "but patience has [cost] us years
in our struggle for human dignity."
While Jack hesitated, others stepped forward and acted.
In 1961, young black and white people called Freedom Riders
tried to integrate buses in the south.
Angry crowds smashed their windows.
They slashed the tires.
They set fire to the buses.
But the young people didn't give up.

When President Kennedy spoke you listened; his words profound in his singular voice.  To have him speaking on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, as the children march beginning on the left side of the back to stand near him on the front, makes an impressive statement.  Above the three young men on the back is a quote from the June 11, 1963 speech.  The white background with blue and red for the text points to this as a segment from American history.

A light turquoise wash spans both the opening and closing endpapers.  In black and white, R. Gregory Christie has created a line of children carrying signs.  On the opening jacket flap a small African American child is carrying a sign.  On the title page a grown JFK is seated and reading a book.

The brush strokes, lines, light and shadows portray vivid emotional moments in images spanning two pages, single pages or small pictures on a single page.  R. Gregory Christie's work is distinctive and original; his people look literally ready to walk off the pages or turn their heads and start talking to us.  The faces of people from history are marvelous.

One of my favorite illustrations is the one appearing on the title page and again in the interior of the book.  Jack, wearing a lighter blue suit with a white shirt and a striped tie is seated in a red chair.  He is holding an open book in his hands.  He has stopped reading but seems to be looking inward.  The expression on his face is thoughtful but determined.

This book, A Time To Act: John F. Kennedy's Big Speech, written by Shana Corey with illustrations by R. Gregory Christie needs to be in your personal and professional collections.  It is one of the finest titles about Kennedy amid the civil rights movement and his life prior and shortly after the June 11, 1963 speech I have ever read for children (for everyone).  Great care has been taken by both the author and illustrator in their presentations.  A two page Author's Note is a must read at the end.  Eight portraits are offered of prominent people appearing in the narrative.  There is a further reading section, a selected bibliography, origins of quotations and acknowledgements.

To discover more about Shana Corey and R. Gregory Christie please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Shana Corey has an extras page with wonderful ideas.  Here is a discussion guide.  At a publisher's website you can view interior images.  At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog of author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson you can see more images.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, hosts the book trailer premiere on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  He asks Shana Corey to complete sentences for him in an interview.

Make sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the titles selected by other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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