Because Cynthia Levinson's non-fiction book We've Got a Job is told from the perspectives of four real children who lived in Birmingham in 1963, it is immediately more visceral and moving than most Civil Rights Movement books I've read. The power of this book is apparent right from the prologue:
"On Thursday morning, May 2, 1963, nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks woke up with freedom on her mind. But, before she could be free, there was something important she had to do. 'I want to go to jail,' Audrey had told her mother. Since Mr. and Mrs. Hendricks thought that was a good idea, they helped her get ready."
Would you go to jail to stand up for your rights? What if you were just nine years old? Could you be peaceful and passive as your enemies called you names and threatened you? Would you pick yourself up and try again after multiple defeats?
The story of the 1963 Birmingham Children's March will appeal to kids because children are the heroes. When Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders were trying to fill the jails of Birmingham in peaceful protest, they couldn't get enough adults to volunteer for the cause. The grown-ups were afraid of losing their jobs and weren't sure protesting was the best thing to do. The kids, however, valiantly risked life and limb to demand integration and equal treatment. They marched and went to jail in the thousands. They endured racist taunts, fire hoses, attack dogs, and other violence. They made a difference.
There is complicated history in this book, as well as violence and some harsh language. For that reason, I'd recommend it for ages 12 and older. Ultimately, it's a well-written, powerful book that may very well win some awards this year.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5