Title: Preaching to the Chickens
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: E. B. Lewis
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2016
Themes: civil rights, John Lewis, justice
Opening:Little John Lewis loved the spring. He loved it not only because it was the time when the whole planet came alive, but also because it was the season of the chicks. Winter was too cold to bring them safely into the world, and summer was too hot. Spring was just right.
Synopsis: A glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.
John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice. (Goodreads)
Why I like this book:
As we have been reminded in the news this past week, John Lewis has been the U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He is the only person to be a speaker at both the first march on Washington and the 50th anniversary of the March.
He learned to preach as a young boy and then he did what godly men do, he lived out those words through his deeds. We learn of a young boy who cared for his chickens. He got up early every morning to look after them, he protected them when there was possibility that one would be sold, and he saved Big Belle from a sure death when she fell into the well. They provided a wonderful little congregation as he practiced his preaching skills. This is a great biographical picture book about a boy from a farm in rural southern Alabama who became not only one of the key leaders of the African American community during the disturbing and ground breaking Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but also of all Americans to this day as a proactive and concerned Congressmen.
Though the book is a snippet of John Lewis' childhood, the author manages to capture so much of the courageous and compassionate man he was to become, through his interaction with God's Word and his chooks. There is a strong underlying Christian message in this book, but it is sensitively shared and as essential a part of Lewis' life as it was Dr. Martin Luther King's.
Asim's language is a joy to read aloud, and Lewis' watercolor impressionistic portrayal of this simple farm childhood and the individuality of all these chickens is inspiring.
A perfect read aloud in the classroom for Black History month. Make sure to share the author's note with your readers, which speaks of where the inspiration for this book came from and adds some detail about the adult John Lewis.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.