Illustrated by Bryan Collier; Little Brown for Young Readers
© cover art Flip Schulke

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “big words” are woven into a skillful narrative to create a biography of this great Civil Rights leader.


  • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
  • National Council of Teachers of English, Orbis Pictus Honor Book
  • Caldecott Honor Book
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Book
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • New York Public Library 100 Best Books
  • Child Magazine, Best Children’s Book Award
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year;
  • Best Illustrated Books of the Year
  • Blue Ribbon list, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
  • Children’s Books of Distinction, Riverbank Review
  • Children’s Choice, Children’s Book Council in conjunction with the IRA


“Weaving in Dr. King’s own “big words,” this inspiring picture book biography celebrates this great leader as preacher and politician. Rappaport’s sparse narrative captures the essentials of the man, the Civil Rights movement he led, and his policy of non-violence. This is a great book to read aloud many times.” Booklist

“A stunning, reverent tribute.” School Library Journal

From the Author’s Note

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the great figures of the civil rights movement. In preparing to write this book, I read biographies of him. I learned that as a child he was determined to “use big words.” I reread his autobiography, speeches, sermons, and articles. I found his “big words”  They are simple and direct, yet profound and poetic.

From the Illustrator’s Note

When I close my eyes and think about Dr. King’s life, the main image that comes to me over and over again is that of stained-glass windows in a church. For me, the windows are metaphors in a lot of ways. In the dark, they blaze out at you like beams of light. The multi-colors symbolize multi races. Stained-glass windows are also a vehicle to tell the story of Jesus. And whether you’re on the inside or the outside, windows allow you to look past where you are. I use metaphors throughout my work. The four candles in the last picture, for example, represent the four girls who were killed in the sixteenth Street Baptist church. Their light shines on.


“His big words are alive for us today.”

Doreen Rappaport, Then Senator Hillary Clinton, and students honor Dr. King.

*The US Federal holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year,
around the time of his birthday, January 15.

Inside Page – Martin’s Big Words


Learn More

Big Words Books, Hyperion Teacher’s Guide

Doreen’s Study Guides

Kids Connect

The King Center – Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King, Jr. center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) has been a global destination, resource center and community institution for over a quarter century. Nearly a million people each year make a pilgrimage to the National Historic Site to learn, be inspired and pay their respects to Dr. King’s legacy.

To find other web sites, use the Martin Luther King as your search word. There are more than two hundred web sites focusing on Dr. King.


About the Illustrator

Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Bryan Collier has created the art for many children’s books, including this master achievements Rosa, John’s Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon, and Freedom River.  Please visit him at:


About the photographer

Flip Schulke is an award-winning photojournalist with a forty-year career working for magazines. He has one of the largest privately held collections of photographs of Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Many of these photographs can be viewed on his web site



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech (I Have A Dream)

President Obama -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial Dedication

Bryan Collier talks about his creative process

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