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My brother Martin_

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Christine King Farris

Chris Soentpiet

K and up/Ages 5+
40 pages/picture book

11"X 10"
ISBN #0-689-84387-9 hardcover
$19.99 US

$22.99 CAN

ISBN #0-689-84388-7 paperback
$6.99 US

$9.50 CAN

Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of Americas
New York, NY 10020
(800) 223-2348

  • Child Magazine Best Book
  • Arizona Young Readers Awards
  • IRA Teachers' Choice for 2004
  • NAACP Image Award 2004

Long before he became a world-famous dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. was a little boy who played jokes and practiced the piano and made friends without considering race. But growing up in the segregated South on the 1930's forced a very young Martin to learn a bitter lesson - little white children and little black children were not to play with one another. Martin decided then and there that something had to be done. And as a seven-year old, he embarked on a journey that would change the course of American history.

Renowned educator Christine King Farris, older sister of the late Dr. King, tells this inspirational story of how one boyhood experience inspired a movement. It's a tale that will touch the hearts of all people, and remind us all that if you believe hard enough, dreams can become reality.


About two years ago, I was preparing to give a speech at a teacher conference. Distracted in my preparations, I wasn't fully aware of the person introducing me. As it turned out, that person was Mrs. Christine King Farris, sister of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She sat through my presentation and afterward asked if I would be interested in working with her on a project-a book about her childhood with her brother. Of course, I was incredibly flattered. As a youngster, I had idolized this remarkable human being. She went on to say that I and the things I said during my presentation reminded her of her brother. I felt truly honored.

Christine and I kept in contact and soon Mrs. Farris's editor at Simon and Schuster contacted me. Within a matter of weeks the book was underway. My first course of action, a trip to the King Center in Atlanta where Mrs. Farris, our editor, and I walked through the places of Dr. King's childhood-his home, his church, the neighborhood firehouse where he and his friends spent much of their time-all while discussing what we thought this book should be. I snapped photographs and listened while Mrs. Farris regaled us with recollections of a childhood spent with a little boy who would grow up to change the world. I was moved beyond words and left Atlanta with the feeling of being a part of something historic.

I returned to Atlanta for a second time with my camera, lighting equipment, backdrop, and clothes for the models to wear. Because I paint realistically I need to use live models to ensure the main characters look the same from one angle to another. Christine greeted me at Ebenezer Baptist Church with southern graciousness and charm. She personally chose each model to represent the character in her story.

The boys who portrayed Martin Jr. and AD are Christine's grandnephew. Christine's daughter portrayed "Mother Dear". The current pastor at Ebenezer Baptist portrayed "Daddy" King. Even Christine's young granddaughter was an eager model. The rest of the cast were personal and close friends of the King family. The models shared with me interesting stories of their time with Dr. King, which helped me visualize the illustration process. All the models agreed their participation was a special tribute to Dr. King's legacy.

Christine's presence added another element of authenticity to my photo shoot. For example, did you know Aunt Ida did not go to church-so I made sure I did not paint her in a church scene.

As part of my painting process, I also sketched the original King's childhood home on 510 Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, which is now preserved by The King Center.


The spirit and generosity from Mrs. Farris, the staff at both the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the National Historic Site, and the King family helped to make my work on MY BROTHER MARTIN as genuine and authentic as I think possible. It is my sincere hope that the part I played in the creation of this book helps Dr. King's vision of justice and harmony live on. -Chris Soentpiet

*** Learn how you can preserve Dr. King's legacy by visiting The King Center.***


"A delightful biography for children."-EBONY

"This is a rare glimpse of the activist as a young boy." -ESSENCE

"...glimpses of the home that nurtured King's dream."-PARENTING

"Vividly recounted anecdotes show children how this great hero was once a kid like them."-CHILD

"Anyone-especially kids-can relate to the warm family scenes depicted in the book."- TEACHING K-8

This stunningly beautiful picture book for children of all ages features sunny watercolors that capture the King family at home with warmth and love. A few black and white watercolor paintings that focus on King's adult life bring up the end, along with Mildred D. Johnson's poem "You Can Be Like Martin" and an author's afterward. Few books are a "must read." This is one.
-Deborah Abbott (Chicago Sun-Times. Jan 2003)

Farris's stirring memoir of her younger brother "M.L." focuses on a pivotal moment in their childhood in Atlanta. The conversational narrative easily and convincingly draws readers into the daily life of Christine and her two brothers, M.L. and A.D., as they listen to their grandmother's stories, stage pranks and romp in the backyard with two white brothers from across the street. The adults in the King family-Daddy, a minister; Mother Dear, a musician; maternal grandparents (the grandfather is also a minister) and a great-aunt-try to shield the children from the overt racism of the times; the family rarely took streetcars, for example, because of "those laws [segregation], and the indignity that went with them." When the white boys announce one day that they cannot play with M.L. and A.D. because they are "Negroes," the young Kings are hurt and baffled. Mother Dear explains, "[Whites] just don't understand that everyone is the same, but someday, it will be better." M.L. replies, "Mother Dear, one day I'm going to turn this world upside down." Soentpiet (Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor) illustrates this exchange with a powerful watercolor portrait of mother and son that encapsulates many emotions, including hope, pain and love.
Publishers Weekly 2003

In the straightforward style of a master storyteller, Farris recalls the birth of her two younger brothers and relates anecdotes that demonstrate both the mischievous exploits of the siblings and the love and understanding that permeated the close-knit multigenerational family in which they grew up. Using plain language, she describes conditions in the South during her childhood that separated blacks and whites- "Because they just don't understand that everyone is the same, but someday, it will be better." From their father's church sermons and his actions when confronting the hatred and bigotry, the children learned the importance of standing up for justice and equality. The warmth of the text is exquisitely echoed in Soentpiet's realistic, light-filled watercolor portraits set in the King home, in their Atlanta neighborhood, and at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The simple directness of this short biography will help young children understand the concept of segregation and the importance of Dr. King's message. An appended poem by Mildred D. Johnson reflects Farris's own message: "-it is important for young people to realize the potential that lies within each of them-." This outstanding book belongs in every collection.
-SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

In the years since his death, too many biographers of Martin Luther King Jr. have made him so much larger than life that to the current generation of children he has become more of an idealized heroic icon than a real person. By sharing her memories of their childhood, Farris has opened a window to show Martin as a small boy in a loving extended family, a sometime prankster, protected for a while from the harsh reality of racism. When that reality became impossible to ignore, he and his brother and sister have the example of the strong faith, the encouragement, and the strength of their parents to guide them. Young Martin promises his mother that he will be an agent for change, that he will one day "turn this world upside down." Farris tells the story simply and gently, remembering Martin as her little brother and as the man who indeed turned the world upside down. Soenpiet's (Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor, p. 1628, etc.) watercolors are both meticulous in their detail and beautifully expressive of the family's emotions. Farris's afterword, graced by childhood photos of Martin, further explains her need to share these memories. A poem by Mildred D Johnson, written in 1968, is included as a reminder that all children have the potential for greatness. A very welcome addition to the King story.

In this picture-book biography, Martin Lunter King's older sister adds a personal stamp to King's childhood experiences that other books have lacked. When Martin asks his mother why the white boys across the street have been forbidden to play with the King children, she explains about prejudice, prompting Martin to say, "Mother Dear, one day I'm going to turn the world upside down." The richly detailed illustrations capture the times and are striking portrayals of the individuals, with Soentpiet including a note describing his use of King family members and friends as models. The respectful tone of the text is augmented by the large, handsome design, with metallic-blue endpapers and halftone photographs used to accentuate front and back matter. A one-page poem by Mildred D. Johnson, "You Can Be Like Martin: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," follows the short text, and an afterword adds context and personalizes the book. A testament to one person making a difference, the book is intended to be inspirational--and, in both art and text, it is.
-BOOKLIST (Julie Cummins)

Most people remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the man who had a dream to change the world of its prejudice views. But what was he like before he became that famous man? Join his sister Christine along with their brother A.D. and find out what life was like growing up in the King household. Would you like to know what Martin's nickname was? Did you know that he liked to play pranks? Find out about one that he played on his piano teacher. Learn how it was to grow up in a community where Martin could go anywhere and play with the neighborhood children. But one day he learned that he was not allowed to go certain places because of his skin color. Feel the hurt of the King family as they had to deal with the people who ignorantly treated them differently. However, there was hope, because as a child, Martin was determined to "turn the world upside down." This book gives personal insight into the childhood of a great man as told by his sister. The illustrations are beautifully and realistically drawn. Teachers will enjoy using this book anytime of the year in their classroom.
CHILDREN'S LITERATURE (Simon and Schuster, White)

Theme: MY BROTHER MARTIN can be used to introduce your students to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., African-Americans and race relations.

Discussion: Dr. King's address, is among the most famous speeches in history. The emotional impact as well as the literal meaning of King's words comes alive, when reading MY BROTHER MARTIN. "I have a dream that one day...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today." Ask your students what is the significant of that statement in Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Use this book to talk about the civil rights movement and why the speech is a part of American history.

Pre-reading: Show the students the cover of the book, and then read the title, author and illustrator's name. Ask them what they think the book will be about. Explain that the sister will tell a story of her childhood growing up with her brother who later became world famous.

Reading: As you read and show the illustrations have the students look closely at the drawings. What details can they find in the pictures? Have them look closely at the expressions on the faces for the characters -- how do they change during the story. Ask the students how they think the characters are feeling? Can they tell by the illustrations? The childhood home is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Have a map nearby to see how far it is from you.

Social Studies/Literature: Read more about Dr. King, the civil-rights movement and African-American history by reading books like MOMMA, WHERE ARE YOU FROM by Marie Bradby, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE by Marie Bradby, MARTIN'S BIG WORDS by Doreen Rappaport, FREE AT LAST by Sara Bullard, THEY HAD A DREAM by Jules Archer, LET IT SHINE by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

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