March Book One describes John Lewis’ early interest in equality and civil rights. The first hand account relates how Lewis found his voice and became connected to the formal Civil Rights Movement.
March is told in graphic novel form and is written by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. The three collaborated to combine text and images to tell a striking story. The story begins with Lewis not wanting to leave the warmth of his bed or his soft slippers. Surely, this parallels the struggles he had in giving up the comfort of his family to fight for the rights of strangers, leaving behind the warmth and security for the sake of a call to duty. Matching word to text allows the authors to underscore meanings in a vivid, emotional and wordless way. This young man who cared and preached to the absolute lowest of the low, his family’s chickens, could not help but be overwhelmed with concern for the his black brothers and sisters, those white society saw as their least.
While at the office, two young boys, Jacob and Esau happen to stop by with their mother to visit the congressman’s on what seems to be the day President Obama is being inaugurated. Lewis takes the opportunity to tell them his story and March unfolds. Jacob and Esau? Biblical names of twins who fought inside their mother’s womb. Their story is one of birthrights.
I don’t read graphic novels often and some of the standard visual references were lost on me. I’m not sure what open panels mean. I did catch that crucial moments were displayed in much larger panels, providing more room to convey meaning. I was provided ‘aha’ moments as I uncovered meanings in passages, thus making personal connections to John Lewis and his story. Not only because it’s written in graphic form, but because of how these past events are contextualized into the future, I think young readers will relate to John Lewis and his message of answering the call. The last scenes in the book move from a ringing landline to a ringing cell phone. Who is calling and why are answers for Book Two.
I enjoyed this book. The most memorable scene for me was on page 27 when Lewis states ”by the time I was five, I could read it [The Bible] myself, and one phrase struck me strongly, though I couldn’t comprehend its full meaning at the time” and the words are written on the character’s back. Some of the frames confused me when I couldn’t relate the text to the image. I would love to have had an author’s note on what inspired this book or telling whom Lewis consulted with to jolt and clarify his memories but as it stands, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to young readers.
Coretta Scott King Honor Book
ALA Notable Book
YALSA’s Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
YALSA’s Outstanding Books for the College Bound
2014 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Honor