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A Sweet Smell of Roses

by Angela Johnson
Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2005
32 pages
ISBN: 0-689-83252-4

Ages 6-9

Two young African American girls run “Past the early-morning milkman, over the cobbled bridge, and through the curb market . . . to where everybody waits to march.” They are joining the march for freedom and for equality. They are marching with Dr. King. Told in the voice of one of the girls, Johnson’s spare, stirring story beautifully conveys the children’s soaring knowledge that they have become part of something bigger than their own lives, and then grounds them again in childlike joy. “He [Dr. King] talks about peace, / love, / nonviolence, / and change for everybody. / And the sun gets higher in the sky. / When it’s time to go, / we skip back hand in hand. / Minnie and me. / Singing freedom songs along / the streets.” In an author’s note, Johnson explains that for every famous name associated with the Civil Rights Movement, there are tens of thousands of unknown names. “And some of those overlooked names belong to children.” She wrote the story in tribute to them. Eric Velasquez’s emotionally charged black-and-white illustrations feature occasional, carefully chosen touches of red.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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