Title: Summer of Kings Author: Han Nolan Illustrator: n/a Publisher: Florida: Harcourt Publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction Level: Upper Number of pages: 334 Pub. Date: 2006
It’s 1963; Esther Young is a young girl who just wants a little excitement in her life. So when King Roy Johnson, a suspected black murder comes to live with her family she decides she’s going to love him. Through King Roy, Esther is introduced to a world where not everything is as fair as she originally thought. She starts reading about Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to learn more about peaceful protest. At the same time King Roy joins a Black Muslim group who are for action now. In the end Esther convinces her family that they should go to the March on Washington and King Roy dies for the murder the reader doesn’t know if he committed or not.
This book is set in the time period of the Civil Rights Movement, 1963. This piece is a historically researched story with imaginary characters. Many of the attributes of this story are historically accurate. One example of this is that Esther and her family go to the March on Washington and hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a Dream speech.
I think that this story is relatable for almost everybody. This story talks a lot about growing up and finding something that you believe in. Esther and King Roy both struggle with who they are and how their lives are going. I think that of all of the books I’ve read so far, Esther is the most relatable character for me. She really loves her family, wants to make the world a better place and struggles with feeling like she isn’t growing up fast enough. I have felt all of these feelings myself. Another thing that really struck me is that the author never tells us is King Roy actually killed anybody. I believe that by leaving it open to interpretation, it allows the reader to decide if King Roy is a good or bad character.
Have the students watch the “I have a dream speech”. After they have finished watching it, have them discuss in small groups how Mr. Kings ideas relate to what Esther believes and what she reads about in the book.