Reviews for My Uncle Martin's Big Heart

Booklist Reviews 2010 September #1
"In this warm, handsome picture book, Watkins celebrates her loving relationship as a small preschooler with "Uncle M. L." From the opening double-page spread, in which King addresses a huge crowd with his "I have a dream" speech, the girl speaks about taking pride in her uncle's political role as a civil rights leader and national hero. Even more, though, she focuses on personal moments, and the images show moving close-ups of her as a little girl welcoming King, her mother's brother, in her family's home or running down a church aisle with pigtails flying, ready to be picked up and kissed by the great leader. Prizewinning artist Velasquez is at his best here, creating many individual faces among the huge packed rallies on the street, and in portraits, he shows the affection that the child and her uncle share. Idyllic, yes, but for small kids, this puts a human face on the legend, and children will be interested in the small sepia-toned childhood photo of Angela in her uncle's arms." Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Watkins's narrative provides a warm and intimate glimpse into the life of "Uncle M.L.," Martin Luther King Jr., as a gentle and fun-loving man spending time with his family. Young readers will delight in the laughter, the teasing, the indulgence allowed during church service, etc. Warm-hued paintings capture the spirit of the man at work and at rest. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 August #1

Martin Luther King's niece offers a child's-eye tribute to her famous uncle, whom she remembers as warm and loving, a man with a loud voice who enjoyed a good laugh. The author was not yet four when King was assassinated but tells her first-person story in a slightly older voice. Velasquez's paintings match that, showing a pigtailed girl of five or six, as well as King in a variety of settings: speaking, preaching and leading marchers, visiting her family and at home with his own. The emphasis is on King's love for his extended family as well as his country and its people. The intended audience may find the chronology confusing, with appealing stories of early-childhood encounters coming before the telegram congratulating her mother on her birth. But the image of King sleeping on the couch with shoes on will stick with them, humanizing a man who has become an icon. This unusual perspective and the dramatic art make this a worthwhile addition to the ever-growing MLK collection. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 August #5

In her first book for children, Watkins offers an affectionate tribute to King (known to his family as "Uncle M.L."), emphasizing his love of family and laughter. While she notes his accomplishments as orator and civil rights activist, her focus is on personal memories of her uncle, who was killed before the author turned four. The reminiscences are anecdotal: Watkins recalls that King would divert his attention from the congregants who were waiting to greet him after he preached to give her "a kiss and a great big hug!" And on one visit to her home, "he was so tired, he fell asleep on our living room couch--with his shoes on! Can you imagine?" More memorable than the theatrical and repetitive narrative are the realistic paintings Velasquez (My Friend Maya Loves to Dance) offers of King, who is shown at work and with his immediate family. In an artist's note, Velasquez explains that he intentionally portrayed Watkins as older than she actually was during King's lifetime; the scenes of uncle and niece together poignantly reveal the bond between them. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 October

K-Gr 3--A niece recalls the times she spent as a young girl with her famous uncle. "He was a great civil rights leader and an American hero….His name was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But to me, it was Uncle Martin. Actually, it was Uncle M.L." Watkins briefly mentions some of the famous events associated with King during the civil-rights era, such as protest marches and speeches, but the focus is on the special relationship the child shared with a favorite uncle and the details she remembers, such as his humor and laughter. An apt example is an illustration in which the author races down the aisle after services at Ebenezer and into the outstretched arms of her uncle. Realistic and warm paintings fill each page. Combine this memoir with Christine King Farris's My Brother Martin (S & S, 2003) and March on! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World (Scholastic, 2008). These books written by close relatives give young children a valuable and more personal insight into the man's family life and times.--Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

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