Preaching to the Chickens

illus. by E.B. Lewis. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399168567.
RedReviewStarGr 2–5—Luminous artwork and stirring text shed light on the childhood of one of America's most respected civil rights leaders. Young John Lewis found his calling early in life, tenderly caring for the many chickens on the family farm and emulating his church's ministers by preaching to the attentive hens: "'Blessed are the peacemakers,' he'd say when [the chickens] fought over their morning meal. 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,' he would tell a hen who didn't want to share, 'for they shall be satisfied.'" The future Freedom Rider and U.S. congressman would even baptize newly hatched chicks. When a local businessman stopped by the farm to make a trade for one of Lewis's hens, the bighearted boy sagely figured out a way to make a transaction without handing over one of his beloved chickens. Lewis's strong faith and his deep connection to his family and community shine through in Asim's straightforward text and illustrator E.B. Lewis's full-page, light-dappled watercolors. An author's note briefly discusses Lewis's leadership in the March on Washington and other key events of the civil rights movement and explains that Asim based the story on Lewis's own recollections.
VERDICT A quietly powerful and joyful look at the childhood of a living legend and a superb introduction to studying heroes of the civil rights era.

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