Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Summary:  Beginning with Mamie Till’s decision to bring her son Emmett’s body home to Illinois after his horrific murder in Mississippi, the story goes back to trace Mamie’s life to that point.  A smart, hardworking girl who graduated at the top of her high school class, Mamie married an abusive man, escaping the marriage with her son.  Emmett was visiting family in Mississippi when he was murdered by white men who believed he had violated Jim Crow laws when interacting with the wife of one of the men at a store.  The sheriff planned to quietly bury Emmett’s body, but Mamie insisted on bringing him home and having an open casket funeral.  Photos were widely published, giving impetus to the civil rights movement.  After Emmett’s death, Mamie remarried, went to college, became a teacher, and continued to work for civil rights until her death in 2003 at the age of 81.  Includes notes from the author and illustrator, a playlist, a glossary, a timeline, and a list of sources.  64 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This is a powerful book, both the free verse text and the cut paper illustrations.  The tone is appropriately somber, but also inspiring, showing Mamie’s love for her son, her grief, and her incredible resilience.  A Coretta Scott King Award contender for sure. 

Cons:  The narrative may be somewhat confusing to readers who aren’t familiar with Emmett Till’s story.  They might want to start with the back matter.

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