Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis

by Jabari Asim (Author) E B Lewis (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A New York Times Best Illustrated Book

Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.

John wants to be a preacher when he grows up--a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm's flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice.

Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story, featuring Jabari Asim's stirring prose and E. B. Lewis's stunning, light-filled impressionistic watercolor paintings, includes an author's note about John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. John Lewis is now a Georgia congressman, who is still an activist today, recently holding a sit-in on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol to try to force a vote on gun violence. His March: Book Three recently won the National Book Award, as well as the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Author Award, Printz Award, and Sibert Award.


Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
"After absorbing this must-read bit of personal history about John Lewis, young readers will never see this serious-faced congressman in quite the same way. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)"

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Asim (Fifty Cents and a Dream) draws on an anecdote from congressman John Lewis's 1998 memoir, Walking with the Wind, as he recounts the story of the future civil rights activist tending to a flock of chickens, both physically and--in a way--spiritually. On the Alabama farm of his childhood, Lewis was in charge of the chickens; inspired by church ministers, Lewis would preach to the birds, which "swayed to the rhythm of his voice." E.B. Lewis (The First Step) stages the scenes under the bright springtime light of Alabama mornings, giving a full sense of John Lewis's world, from the dusty henhouse to the sturdy wooden pews of his family's church, while always emphasizing the tender care he devoted to the chickens. It's a moving portrait of the power of small actions and "learn to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves." Ages 5-8. Author's agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary. (Oct.)

Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-5--Luminous artwork and stirring text shed light on the childhood of one of America's most respected civil rights leaders. Young John Lewis found his calling early in life, tenderly caring for the many chickens on the family farm and emulating his church's ministers by preaching to the attentive hens: "'Blessed are the peacemakers, ' he'd say when [the chickens] fought over their morning meal. 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, ' he would tell a hen who didn't want to share, 'for they shall be satisfied.'" The future Freedom Rider and U.S. congressman would even baptize newly hatched chicks. When a local businessman stopped by the farm to make a trade for one of Lewis's hens, the bighearted boy sagely figured out a way to make a transaction without handing over one of his beloved chickens. Lewis's strong faith and his deep connection to his family and community shine through in Asim's straightforward text and illustrator E.B. Lewis's full-page, light-dappled watercolors. An author's note briefly discusses Lewis's leadership in the March on Washington and other key events of the civil rights movement and explains that Asim based the story on Lewis's own recollections. VERDICT A quietly powerful and joyful look at the childhood of a living legend and a superb introduction to studying heroes of the civil rights era.--Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"The poignant, observant watercolors . . . are bathed in subtly changing light, making homespun scenes of country life seem celestial and exalted."—The New York Times Book Review

*
"A glimpse into the childhood whimsy of an important African-American congressman who has become famous for his words. . . . Illustrator Lewis' signature watercolors paint a lively picture of John Lewis' life growing up on a farm with a close and hardworking Christian family. The liveliness of the chickens as well as John's concern and care for them shine in the light-dappled images. Given the seriousness of what Lewis faced on the march from Selma to Montgomery and the gravity of the issues he has dealt with throughout his career, this joy-inducing back story reveals an entertaining facet to the congressman's life that young readers will appreciate. After absorbing this must-read bit of personal history about John Lewis, young readers will never see this serious-faced congressman in quite the same way."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "E.B. Lewis stages the scenes under the bright springtime light of Alabama mornings, giving a full sense of John Lewis's world, from the dusty henhouse to the sturdy wooden pews of his family's church, while always emphasizing the tender care he devoted to the chickens. It's a moving portrait of the power of small actions and 'learn[ing] to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves.'"—Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Luminous artwork and stirring text shed light on the childhood of one of America's most respected civil rights leaders. . . . Lewis's strong faith and his deep connection to his family and community shine through in Asim's straightforward text and illustrator E.B. Lewis's full-page, light-dappled watercolors. An author's note briefly discusses Lewis's leadership in the March on Washington and other key events of the civil rights movement and explains that Asim based the story on Lewis's own recollections. A quietly powerful and joyful look at the childhood of a living legend and a superb introduction to studying heroes of the civil rights era."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Asim and Lewis' words and images convey their respect and admiration for John Lewis, and readers will feel the same way. A tender narrative, paired with watercolors filled with light and movement, captures the heat of a Georgia day and the unmistakable bond John formed with his feathery followers. Young readers will appreciate the gentle messages about the importance of hard work, persistence, and patience that lay the foundations for John Lewis' activism as an adult, which is detailed in a final author's note."—Booklist

"Bucolic-looking watercolor and gouache landscapes take modern readers back to a time when the entire Lewis family was busy on the farm from dawn to dusk. . . . A fine introduction to the life of an American icon."—The Horn Book
Jabari Asim
Jabari Asim is an associate professor of writing at Emerson College and a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. He has written for the Washington Post and is the editor of the NCAAP magazine, The Crisis. He lives in Boston, with his wife and five children.

Bryan Collier began painting at the age of fifteen and earned a B.F.A. with honors from the Pratt Institute in New York. He has illustrated over 20 picture books and has won numerous awards, including three Caldecott Honors. He lives with his wife and children in Marlboro, New York.
Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9780399168567
Lexile Measure
670L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date
October 20, 2016
Series
-
BISAC categories
JNF007050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Cultural Heritage
JNF007110 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Social Activists
JNF049250 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Religious | Christian - Inspirational
Library of Congress categories
Childhood and youth
Biographies
United States
20th century
Chickens
Alabama
JUVENILE NONFICTION / Biography & Autobiograp
African American civil rights workers
Religious life
JUVENILE NONFICTION / History / United States
African American boys
JUVENILE NONFICTION / People & Places / Unite
Lewis, John
Legislators
African American legislators
Christian biography
Preaching
Rural children
Rural conditions

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