By Shane W. Evans
Roaring Brook. $16.99. Ages 4-8
With this companion to last year’s “Underground,” Shane W. Evans brackets a century of African American history from pre-Civil War to civil rights. His simple text is as limpid as his light-infused illustrations of dawn rising over a small Southern town where a family — mother, father, son and daughter — begin their day in late August 1963. “The sun rises . . . and we prepare . . . to march.” Against a brightening sky, a crowd gathers outside a church. “We pray for strength.” Placards are painted. Buses roll. The Washington Monument appears, and the moment is suddenly lodged firmly in the continuum of time.
Shown from the perspective of the children who participated in this historic event, Evans’s account emphasizes the determination, strength and optimism of ordinary people swept up in an extraordinary era, participating in an extraordinary event. It also underscores that, although this movement began with an all-black cast, it gathered strength as it diversified racially and generationally. And it ends as both history and symbolism demand, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial with a sea of people and a sprinkling of American flags under a hot summer sun. “We lean on each other . . . as we march to justice, to freedom, to our dreams.” On two concluding pages, the young boy, aloft now on his father’s shoulders, lifts his hand, mirroring the speaker on the platform: “FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST! THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE ARE FREE AT LAST!”