Monday, January 22, 2007

Summer of Kings

Nolan, Han. 2006. SUMMER OF KINGS. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152051082 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

The summer is 1963, and Martin Luther King, Jr. will make his “I have a dream” speech. King-Roy Johnson, in need of a home to escape trouble in Alabama, comes to live with the Youngs in New York. These are Esther’s’ “Kings.” In this coming of age story, Nolan beautifully depicts the awkward feelings of a fourteen-year-old girl who, with the help of her friend, King-Roy, a suspected murderer, comes to understand her world and her place in it.

King-Roy is bitter that he is in trouble with the law. He sees the white policeman who turned a fire hose on him and his younger brother and sister as the perpetrator of violence He reads Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s writings about non-violent rebellion. He also reads Malcolm X’s exhortations to make violent rebellion which he finds more compelling.

Esther connects with King-Roy immediately and considers him her special friend. She would like to think their relationship is a romantic one, but comes to realize how difficult such a relationship would be for him. Esther sees racial prejudice through King-Roy's eyes, and as readers, we experience her naiveté and his bitterness. He teaches her about Gandhi and Malcolm X and she is inspired by Gandhi’s words to be the change that you wish to see in the world. Her insight and growth are inspiring to witness. This is historical fiction at its best.

Invite readers to divide into two groups: one will research Martin Luther King’s ideas about Civil Rights and the other will research Malcolm X’s. Invite them to debate these views.

By the same author:
Nolan, Han. WHEN WE WERE SAINTS. ISBN 0152163719.

By Cay Geisler

No comments: