By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Grown-ups do some pretty weird things. They get up in the morning and put on uncomfortable clothes and shoes that hurt, then they wear that stuff all day, even though they’d really rather have play clothes like you have.
Grown-ups don’t have cool toys like yours. They don’t sleep with teddy bears. Most of them don’t like bugs much, and they always seem to hate dirt. Oh, and sometimes, they walk … a lot. But, as you’ll see in the new book “We March” by Shane W. Evans, there was once a particularly good reason why grown-ups did that.
Imagine that it’s early in the morning. It’s dark, the streets are quiet, and most of your friends are still asleep.
Mom and Dad wake you up, help you get dressed, and get you into some warm clothes. You’re still sleepy, but imagine how excited you are, too! Something important is about to happen – you’re not sure what it is – but as the sun comes up, you head for church so you can march.
Imagine that your pastor is there waiting, and he opens his arms to heaven so you can pray together. He says you’re praying for strength. The grown-ups bow their heads before God, and you do, too. Then, you get out some big pieces of cardboard and paint words on them. Maybe you can’t read the words, but you know they’re important and, besides, getting messy with paint is fun.
Pretty soon, people from all over come to join you. There are friends old and new, and you start to march by following leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He links arms with men, who link arms with women and kids like you. Imagine a big chain of people marching together, blacks and whites, old and young, singing and smiling.
You can imagine all that walking could make you tired and hot, but with so many people on the march, you’d be happy and hopeful. You’d be with your mom and dad and lots of others who lean on one another and will do so for many years to come, for justice, and for freedom, and for one man’s dream.
Using words so spare (there are less than 60 of them in the main body of this book) and yet so powerful, award-winning author and illustrator Shane W. Evans gently places preschoolers in the midst of an almost 50-year-old event that is still remembered and celebrated. He does it in a kid-friendly way that is also appealing to parents.
I especially liked the modern feel Evans gives this decades-old story; the people in the illustrations look as though they stepped out of any neighborhood today. I also appreciated the author’s note at the back of the book, which offers more information for anyone who may need it.
Older children will probably find this book too babyish, but for 3-to-5-year-olds, it’s the perfect start to a long conversation about equality. For them – and for you – “We March” definitely steps up.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.