Martin Luther King Weekend, 2021


Good wishes to you this Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Weekend. More needed insight will be my goal in this weekend’s re-reading of CASTE, by Isabelle Wilkerson, my book group’s conversation this month. I also expect to re-read MARTIN’s BIG WORDS from Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier, which I often shared as a volunteer in K-2nd grade. I’m fortunate that 3 books from my unread new book stack are also part of this MLK Holiday.

They are Victoria Bond’s ZORA & Me, The Summoner, spun from child days of Zora Neale Hurston. Katheryn Russell-Brown’s SHE WAS THE FIRST traveling in 1972 to “Follow the Chisholm Trail” lifetime of U.S. Presidential Candidate, U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, illustrated by Eric Velasquez and also, Katheryn Russell-Brown’s A VOICE NAMED ARETHA, celebrating the rhythm and blues icon whose hits can be sung from memory by me, my friends & likely you, too. This is illustrated by Laura Freeman.

Here are just brief riffs, from pre-reading skims. ZORA & ME, The Summoner. Together, the families of Carrie, who is Zora’s school days bestie in Florida, & Zora, elude white mobs descending upon Eatonville. The pair investigate skin-prickly stories of zombies & grave robbing, leavened by their keen interest in science.  Zora confronts bullies, including her rough and rude but town-respected, preacher Father, who in turn receives her brave spunk:

“You got it all wrong, Daddy.” Zora says. Often after that, there will be a slap.

Carrie says, “A faithfulness to mystery, to strange unknowable symmetries vibrated Zora.” 

This is part 3 of the richly researched ZORA & ME older middle grade novel series, ages 10-14.

SHE WAS THE FIRST, The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm. It is great to learn that U.S. Rep. Chisholm’s child days embraced Barbados in a deep way. I like this found poem from the book:

Shirley Anita

had a gift

people listened

and followed 

“the Chisholm Trail.”

c. Katheryn Russel-Brown

A VOICE NAMED ARETHA. Verses this musical genius wrote include a cheer from 1972:

In this whole world, you know

There are millions of boys and girls

Who are young, gifted and Black

With their souls intact, and that’s a fact!

c. Aretha Franklin Young Gifted and Black

[in lyrics I added a cap. for Black.]


This poetry post is part of the informal & nourishing Poetry Friday community. The first week of the new year Ruth hosted Poetry Friday, and Sylvia collected us in Week 2 for a wonderful list of poetry books to be published for young readers in 2021. Right now we travel to the bayou with Margaret for the Pres. O’Bama inaugural poem picture book by Richard Blanco and Dav Pilkey you won’t want to miss. After the historic inaugurations of Pres. Biden & V-P Harris, we meet up with Laura. On the last Friday of this new month of the new year 2021, we return here to Bookseedstudio.

Hopes holding & prayers outgoing, the U.S. reaches the other side of Jan. 20th, 2021 in peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers.”  



13 responses to “Martin Luther King Weekend, 2021”

  1. Many Thanks for your powerful post sharing these three moving books Jan! I’m interested in all and particularly the Shirley Chisholm, my father brought politics into every inch of our breathing lives as we grew up, and Shirley Chisholm had a front seat in this mix–I’m looking forward to reading them all! And yes for hope, and peace, and maybe a few prayers, for reaching the other side of 1-20-21.


  2. That’s some fine reading there! I found Caste so painful to read, but so necessary. ❤ Ruth,


  3. I agree that CASTE is a book to read AND reread. Such an important book. I listened on the first pass. I need to read it with my eyes on the second pass.

    Do you know SHIRLEY CHISHOLM IS A VERB? I love that book and that way of thinking about her amazing life.


    • Appreciations for the title, dear Mary Lee ~ there can’t be enough written about U.S. Rep. Chisholm. I recently saw Franki’s tweet about SHIRLEY CHISHOLM IS A VERB & so it’s with my To Read list, thank you. Although I didn’t go into it in my post, the illustrator of SHE WAS THE FIRST, as a student, actually met Ms. Chisholm!

      The work with CASTE is difficult, which to me is a sign that I may be growing. A bit. xo


  4. I still haven’t read the book about Aretha, Jan, but I love the “Zora and Me” series & the story of Shirley Chisholm, people with courage we should use as our models. Thanks for sharing for this special weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for all of these reading recommendations, Jan. This fall, I watched a documentary about Nina Simone. As I read your post, I hear her performance of Aretha’s song, “Young Gifted and Black.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m right there with you…hope holding for January 20th. I wrote about it in my blog post for this week. I love the “Chisholm Trail.” What a wonderful book stack you have. I’ve been meaning to read Zora and Me forever. This is just the nudge I need to grab it as an audio book. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing these three books. They all look enticing. The more I learn about Shirley Chilsom, the more impressed I am. And who can resist Aretha’s music and Zora’s writings?

    Liked by 1 person

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