Title: Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round: My Story of the Making of Martin Luther King Day
Author: Kathlyn J. Kirkwood
Illustrator: Steffi Walthall
Publisher: Versify
Genre: Older children’s/middle grade non-ficiton, Memoir
Book format: Digital
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Description:  This brilliant memoir-in-verse tells the moving story of how a nation learned to celebrate a hero. Through years of protests and petition, Kathlyn’s story highlights the foot soldiers who fought to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday.
Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round is a deeply moving middle grade memoir about what it means to be an everyday activist and foot solider for racial justice, as Kathlyn recounts how, drawn to activism from childhood, she went from attending protests as a teenager to fighting for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday to become a national holiday as an adult. A blueprint for kids starting down their own paths to civic awareness, it shows life beyond protests and details the sustained time, passion, and energy it takes to turn an idea into a law.
Deftly weaving together monumental historical events with a heartfelt coming-of-age story and in-depth information on law making, Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round is the perfect engaging example of how history can help inform the present.

*Free copy provided by author for review…

Review:  This is a wonderful and interesting memoir all about how one girl became a foot soldier and activist against racial prejudice and injustice and helped get Martin Luther King day recognised and celebrated as a national holiday.

The book begins in 1968 with a brief introduction to Kathlyn’s life at the age of seventeen, showing us how she was a regular teenager at the time, senior at her high school , playing clarinet in a marching band, etc.  In just a few sentences into this introduction though we are already made aware of the separated lives of black and white people in America at the time and how unsettling this was for so many including Kathlyn.  The book is written in a verse style rather than typical blocks of text I’m more used to with memoirs, which at first I wasn’t sure about, but after reading on for a bit I found the text flowed easily and this style of verse actually makes it easier to read, giving each part of the memoir a more powerful impact.

The main focus of this memoir is on what happens around Dr Martin Luther King Jr, how his national holiday came to be and how Kathlyn is involved.  At first we learn about a strike of sanitation workers in 1968 and how this leads to so many people marching including Kathyn and her friends and family.  Martin Luther King Jr is there to lead the march and makes an inspirational speech.  After he is killed though, the focus of the book turns to making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday recognised by the country, but with many people in power opposed to the idea, it isn’t so easy to get this made into a law, and it takes many years before it becomes a reality.

I love how despite all the dark things that happen and the difficulties that are faced, this memoir really speaks of the positive ways in which black people marched to have their voices heard and how becoming a foot soldier had such a powerful impact on the country.  Kathyn tells the story of her life through her work as a foot solider, an activist, and I love how we get an insight into these big political changes but also little snippets of some lesser known things such as what happens to her when she meets Stevie Wonder and how her whole family is involved in making a change.

The book’s chapters are short, and with it written in verse, it’s quite easy to read this and it doesn’t take long to get through the whole book.  Throughout the book there are some pictures, a mixture of photographs of people and documents and also some illustrations.  I always love seeing photos in memoirs.  In this book they help break up the text, and also make it more interesting to read as you see certain people in certain situations that helps you to imagine what it was like at the time.  There are additional photos of the author at the end of the book and I love some of the descriptions of these.   I also really enjoy the illustrations in the book which look like the one on the front cover, though in my digital copy all the illustrations are in black, grey and white.  These really helped to set the idea of things like the parades and protests in my mind and I just really like this illustrations style.

The book ends well, in a positive way that not only recognises the achievement that all the foot soldiers made but also helps to, hopefully, inspire children to stand up for what they believe in and become activists themselves if they want to.  There are author’s notes at the end of the book which help explain a little more about Kathyn’s life and why she wrote the book.  There is also a glossary of some of the terms used in the book particularly words to do with politics and law.  After that there is also a great mix of text and pictures that make up a diagram over four pages showing how a bill becomes a law.  I love this extra information as it’s not something I know much about, even in this country (the UK),and it can help children to understand the process.

Overall this is a great memoir showing the inspirational story of someone I have to say I hadn’t heard of before being offered to review this book.  Kathlyn’s life as a foot soldier, marching and fighting for equality and rights in America is an interesting and inspirational one and I love how we get to learn about her and her own campaigning through this book.  The fact that she starts off as a regular teen will help children to connect with her more and I like how we find out about her individual life as well as what is happening politically in America too.  The book encourages children to feel inspired and I do like how this finishes on such a positive note.  The easy to read text and images also make this book so much easier and more interesting to read and this feels like a book that should be read not only for personal enjoyment, but maybe even by children at school to help them understand the racial problems in America’s history from the perspective of someone who was young when these particular events happened, and to help them feel inspired to keep the fight going, and to become activists themselves.

What do you think of this book?  Do you like reading memoirs?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂