Title: As Good As Anybody
Author: Richard Michelson
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Audience: Ages 6-9
Summary: Martin was mad. It was a hot Georgia summer but only white people could swim in the swimming pool. Only white people could drink from the water fountain. Martin had to give up his seat to a white boy and move to the back of the bus. Martin’s father was a preacher. “The way things are”, he preached,” is not the way they always have to be”. Martin’s mother reminded him, “Don’t ever forget that you are just as good as anybody.” Martin grew up to be a minister like his father and had a church in Montgomery, Alabama. One winter day a black woman refused to move to the back of the bus and give her seat to a white man. She was arrested and sent to jail. This galvanized Martin and his church into action. “Don’t ride the bus again until we can sit where we want,” he challenged his congregation. For the next ten years Martin marched across the south speaking out for equal rights. Many people tried to stop him; policemen used dogs and clubs. As Martin and 600 African-Americans began to march in Selma, Alabama for voting rights, he put out a call for all of God’s children to join the march. One man who answered his call was Abraham Heschel. Abraham was a Jew who had been born 22 years before Martin in Warsaw, Poland. His father was an important rabbi who told Abraham, “We are all God’s children. You are as good as anybody.” Poland, all of Europe, was becoming dangerous for Jews and Abraham soon had to leave. He came to America and became an important Rabbi, working for equal rights for all. Sadly, his mother and three sisters were killed by the Nazis. Abraham knew he must answer Martin’s call. He came to Alabama, met and prayed together with Martin and then joined hands to march. There were not enough policemen to stop all the people. Rabbi Heschel said, “I feel like my legs are praying.” A final page concludes the story with the passing of the Voting Rights Act and the deaths of King and Heschel.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is an inspiring story, told with the barest details. Sixty years have passed since these events and elementary children may need a fuller picture of segregation and Jim Crow. Martin’s story is told first, then Abraham’s. In the telling the similarities in the two lives are apparent. Heschel’s story follows King’s, though it began 22 years before. Pictures but not text reveal the age difference. King’s story is told in browns and tans, Heschel’s in blues. Colon’s art work has a subdued quality because of his technique with water color wash and colored pencil. The story, particularly, the march with its intense emotion. may have been served better by stronger colors and more defined outlines.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a story of racial discrimination. Men are the major actors although the influence of mothers is felt.
Theological Conversation Partners: The march for civil rights in Selma, Alabama is a thrilling chapter in the movement’s history and was a turning point in the struggle for equality. Heschel’s action reminds us that any injustice touches us all. Heschel, though a European Jew, saw it as his struggle too, an opportunity to love his neighbor. Both Jew and Christian read Isaiah 1:16, 17; 3:15, Micah 6:8, God’s Word that denounces injustice. “You are as good as anybody,” could merit some discussion. The use of the term “image of God” will contribute to our understanding of this. Our self worth is based on our status as children of God, not comparison with others.
Faith Talk Questions:
- In what ways were the boyhoods of Abraham Heschel and Martin Luther King, Jr. alike?
- On what did the senior Rabbi Heschel base his claim that Abraham was as good as anybody? (Genesis 1:27)
- Look up the Bible verse that says the Law is sweet to taste. (Ps. 19:10)
- What in Rabbi Heschel’s experience in Europe made him decide to join the protest march in Selma?
- What in Heschel’s experience at home would make him sympathetic toward the poor?
- What did Heschel mean when he said, “I feel like my legs are praying?”
- This story occurred over 60 years ago. Many things have changed about voting and “whites only” signs and laws have been passed for equal treatment. Are there places where changes still need to be made?
- What is prejudice? Do you see prejudice in other people? In yourself?
This review is written by regular contributor and Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Virginia Thomas.
As Good As Anybody by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.