Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2013 Contenders: We've Got a Job, by Cynthia Levinson

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March does an excellent job of capturing a critical time and place in American history. It does this by choosing to focus on four individual children who participated in the marches, intercutting their stories with the larger narrative of the Civil Rights movement in general, and the city of Birmingham's struggles in particular.

Cynthia Levinson is a respected author of nonfiction articles, but this is her first book. Add her to the list of new authors to watch -- her organizational ability is superb, and her prose is clean and vigorous. Based on We've Got a Job, she has a real talent for showing how the past impacts the present, which is one of the hardest challenges of writing nonfiction.

As we've mentioned previously in this space, this year has seen the publication of a lot of Civil Rights-themed books. Of the nonfiction titles, We've Got a Job is probably the best -- I'd place it above Little Rock Girl 1957, as well as Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass, which are the two others that have seen the most discussion. It does the best job, not just of telling its story, but of explaining why the story matters to children in 2012 and beyond.

Is it the best nonfiction title of the year? I wouldn't go that far, I don't think. I still feel that Moonbird is the one that I'd pick for that honor, and given the competition, I don't quite feel the need to insert We've Got a Job into the semi-final reading list for our blog. But this is a book every library should own, and a valuable contribution to children's history.

Published in February by Peachtree Publishers


  1. Interesting - I'd put both this title and BOMB way above MOONBIRD on the nonfiction list. But then, I'd put all four of them above LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK.

    1. I'm starting to get really impatient to read BOMB -- my ILL request is taking what feels like a very long time to come through. And I may be biased towards MOONBIRD based on how much I love good nature writing -- it's one of my favorite subgenres of nonfiction. I'm looking forward to reading Rachael's take on it.

      LIONS seems to be one of the more divisive titles of the year. I'm curious to see which side I come down on when I do my Second Take on it.

    2. By the way, I thought it would show more of my profile info, but this is Mark Flowers, from over on Heavy Medal.

      In any case - I agree about LIONS. I actually happen to be a bit in the middle on that one, but most people seem to be taking strong sides.

      As to ILLs - usually it takes forever and then you get 4 or 5 all at once and have to furiously read through them to get them back on time ;)