c.2018, Portable Press
$12.99 ($17.99 Canada)
96 pages

The heroes in comic books arrive in fancy costumes.

Their heads are ringed by bubbles that say things like “POW!” and “ZOOM!” and that’s when bad guys fall like dead twigs from a tree. BAM! All the heroes in comic books are super-powerful and mighty, but here’s the thing: as you’ll see in the new book “Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality!” by James Buckley Jr. and YouNeek Studios, real heroes sometimes quietly wear suits and ties.

Welcome to this history tour. Your guides are Libby (aka Lady Liberty, the statue) and the boy who will someday be your “Uncle Sam.”

Today, they’ll take you on a tour of the life of a boy named Mike.

Yes, that was his name at birth: Michael King Jr., but when Mike was a boy, his father changed both their names to honor a religious man. That was also when Martin Luther King Sr. decided to become a minister. Later, Martin Luther King Jr. did, too.

Back then, young King knew that it was wrong to deny someone their rights, based on the color of their skin. As a child, he vowed to do something about Jim Crow laws someday but it wasn’t until he was older and visited Connecticut that he learned what it was like not to be segregated. That trip changed his focus — he was still a man of God, but he’d use his talents as speechmaker and leader to gain civil rights for African Americans.

It wasn’t easy.

King’s house was bombed and, although his family was safe, it was scary. His followers and friends were beaten and bloodied in fields, on the streets and in marches. His life was threatened and that landed him in the hospital once.

And yet, King never gave up — he persevered by reaching out to politicians and other influential people who could help the cause. He planned and marched, even though there were times when he was just plain tired. And he did it until the day he died on a hotel balcony, killed by a man with a gun …

Kids who struggle to read, or who claim they don’t like to read may change their tune with “Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality!” Parents take note: this isn’t your old-school stuffy history book.

Using the younger versions of two historical icons, author James Buckley Jr. tells the story of Dr. King through comic-book-like illustration and balloon text, mediums that are familiar to both readers and reluctant readers. Inherently, that makes this a tale kids can relate to, but Buckley also uses modern language that children understand, which helps get them involved by subtly including them in the emotions inside the story. Crisp illustrations by YouNeek Studios then keeps them engaged.

That makes this a story that could turn a middle-schooler’s groans into smiles this summer, while it’ll still appeal to kids who love books. For either kind of child in your home, “Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality!” is a book they’ll ZOOM! through.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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