In this Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year, Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to an important chapter in America’s history. Paula grew up in the deep south, in a world where whites had and blacks did not. With an activist father and a community of leaders surrounding her, including Uncle Martin (Martin Luther King), Paula watched and listened to the struggles, eventually joining with her family—and thousands of others—in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.
Poignant, moving, and hopeful, this is an intimate look at the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.
About Paula Young Shelton
I was born in New York City, during an explosive time in American history, the 1960s. One day, my parents were watching the news on TV and saw black and white students being beaten for riding the bus together. When my parents saw this they knew right away that it was time for them to go back to the South and fight for civil rights for all. I was not even a year old when we moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
What I remember most about growing up in Atlanta was that our house was always full of people. During the civil rights movement, there would be people sleeping on our floor, meeting in our living room, and eating at our table. Later, when my dad ran for Congress, it was more of the same. I always had many aunts and uncles that were not related to us at all, but part of our family, nevertheless.
I went to a private school for the first couple of years of my education, one that my oldest sister, Andrea, integrated. When she graduated, she recommended that Lisa and I leave, too. It had not been a pleasant experience for her and she wanted to spare us the pain. I continued in public schools until my dad became the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and we moved to New York again, where I finished high school at the United Nations School. Then, it was back to the South, to Duke University, for college. After that I headed to Uganda to try teaching. I loved it! I returned to New York one more time to get my master’s degree in Education at Bank Street College.
I started teaching in Atlanta public schools, and one summer I went to Washington, D.C., to work for the National Black Child Development Institute. I met the love of my life, Hilary Shelton, who impressed me with his passion for justice. I married him one year later. We have three amazing, creative, energetic sons—Caleb, Joshua, and Noah—who keep us very busy and quite entertained.
I always loved to write. I would write volumes of poetry, keep a diary, record my dreams, and write long letters, short stories, and even a television show. I wrote my first children’s book as my master’s thesis. My cousin illustrated it and I sent it out to countless publishers, and received countless rejections. I kept writing. My current work-in-progress features three amazing boys who bear a striking resemblance to my own sons.
As a first-grade teacher, I get to read a lot of children’s books and I also enjoy storytelling. I began telling stories about the civil rights movement to our students, and one day a parent, who happened to be a published author, heard me and said, "You should write this down." Of course, I already had and he soon introduced me to his agent. And that’s how I got to be a published author.
Starred Review, Booklist, February 1, 2010:
"The daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young remembers her family’s active role in the civil rights movement, beginning when she was four years old...Many adults will want to talk about their memories of the time, and kids will appreciate the child’s intimate viewpoint of world-changing history."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, December 2009:
"History comes alive in this vivid account.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2009:
“Civil rights can be a difficult topic, even for adults, so finding simple language to explain the complexity of injustice and oppression to children is challenging. Shelton, daughter of Andrew Young, accepts the challenge and rises to meet it...Essential.”
Review, Publishers Weekly, November 23, 2009:
“Both contributors evoke the drama and emotion of the times...and a triumphal sense of community and family.”
WINNER 2011 Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
FINALIST Bank Street Child Study Children's Book Award
WINNER New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing