The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday!
Written by: Chris Barton
Illustrated by: Don Tate
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2015)
Suitable for ages: 7 and up
Themes/Topics: US History, Reconstruction, Civil Rights, Mississippi politics, racism, slavery, perseverance, hope, courage, inspiration
Brief Synopsis: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is a picture book biography about the inspirational life of a man born enslaved, freed as a teenager after the start of the Civil War, and 10 years later elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives during Reconstruction.
John Roy’s father, Patrick Lynch, was an Irish overseer, his mother enslaved on the plantation where they lived. Patrick planned to save enough money to purchase and ”own” his family since by law he could not free them. But in 1849, when his son was a mere a toddler, Patrick became ill. He entrusted a friend to free his family in case of his death, but instead this man sold them to a new owner.
Opening pages: “John Roy Lynch had an Irish father and an enslaved mother. By the law of the South before the Civil War, that made John Roy and his brother half Irish and all slave.”
Why I like this book: Let me start by saying I am a genealogy addict which involves a lot of historical research. And for that reason, I love this book!
Barton does a phenomenal job recounting the life of this extraordinary man who overcame so much hostility and oppression to become a justice of the peace and a state representative in Mississippi during a time when laws marginalized people of color. The author’s research is impeccable. The use of primary documents gives us a sense of the man John Roy was and brings readers into the world in which he lived. Barton does not sugarcoat the history nor the inhumane treatment a select group of people suffered. He does give us a history of how one man was able to rise above the fray despite insurmountable obstacles.
The watercolor illustrations by Don Tate carries the lengthy story helping young readers digest these harsh periods in US history.
This book is well done all around and for this reason it is a must read for all ages, not just kids. Many citizens have not learned the history presented in this book. The historical note, timeline, author’s note and illustrator’s note are supplements that add even more to this remarkable story. And of course it is a treasure because -#weneeddiversebooks that are this well researched and written.
“When every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her, and their rights are fully protected by the strong and generous and grateful Republic, then we can all truthfully say that this beautiful land or ours, over which the Star Spangled Banner so triumphantly waves, is, in truth and in fact, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
John Roy Lynch
United States House of Representatives 1876
Congressional Record, vol. 2, Part 5, 43rd Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1876), pp. 4782-4786.
Click here to find more books and facts about John Roy Lynch.
Click here for the educator’s guide.
Click here to see the book trailer.
For more of today’s book reviews, click here go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.