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Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Review

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP: THE SANITATION STRIKE OF 1968 is a historical fiction picture book told through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl, Lorraine Jackson, whose father was a sanitation worker. Although Lorraine is a fictional character her experiences are based on the memories of an eyewitness who was a young girl during the sanitation strike. MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP is historical fiction, but it is heavily grounded in factual information and includes a timeline of the sanitation strike and a reference list.

"I believe that the picture book does a good job of providing information while maintaining the fictional story of Lorraine’s family. I learned several things from my readings of the book..."

I believe that the picture book does a good job of providing information while maintaining the fictional story of Lorraine’s family. I learned several things from my readings of the book, including the terms “Silver Rights” and “Silver War,” to describe the sanitation strike as it was a fight for economic equality rather than civil rights, although the two certainly overlapped, especially since most sanitation workers were African American.
 
Another strength of MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP are the striking paintings/illustrations by Christie. His use of Acryla Gouache provides saturated colors with obvious brushstrokes which add to the texture of the illustrations. Christie uses a variety of styles ranging from realistic, to portray the main characters, to more impressionistic or stylistic for those in the background and the settings. The most striking spread to me is the one titled “Lorraine,” which describes the last moments of Dr. King’s life and his assassination at the Lorraine Motel. In this spread, Christie painted a textured blue gray background along with the railing of the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in black. These simple black strokes are all that are needed for this somber moment.
 
There is one major weakness of this picturebook. In its description of the book the front flap states, “Using a riveting combination of poetry and prose…,” which is where I feel like the book falls short. I don’t feel like there was a strong combination of poetry and prose, as it is primarily prose. I believe that there are only four poems in the book, with the rest of the text being prose. While this works to convey the historical events and to follow the fictional family, it is certainly not a balance, nor perhaps even a combination, of poetry and prose. However, this seems to be more of a marketing or flap copy issue than an issue with the book itself.
 
I believe that this is an important book about an important, and still relevant, event.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on December 12, 2018

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
by Alice Faye Duncan