As boys, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Joshua Heschel were, literally, worlds apart, yet what they experienced in their formative years–for Martin, the injustices of discrimination in racially divided America, and for Abraham, the evils of religious hatred and bigotry in Nazi Germany– would draw them together in adulthood to help change the course of history.
As Good as Anybody is the story of how these two seemingly unalike boys rose above their own personal suffering to become great civil rights leaders. Armed with the power of love, courage, and friendship, together they showed that peace, tolerance, and acceptance are worth standing up for, and that united in our differences the world is a stronger and better place.
1. Show students the cover of As Good as Anybody. Have them “read the cover” to predict what the story might be about. Discuss what the title means. Elicit many different responses, recording each on chart paper. Next, ask students if they recognize any of the people shown in the cover illustration (some students may recognize Dr. King). Activate prior knowledge about Dr.King’s life and the civil rights movement, and tell students that they will be learning about another important figure in the struggle for civil rights, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
2. Discrimination–Ask students to write a personal definition of the words discriminate and discrimination. Ask for volunteers to share their definitions; write key words and commonalities on the board. Gradually, begin to form a final definition for each word to which the whole class can refer. Form a large circle and lead a book talk to discuss how both King and Heschel personally experienced discrimination in their lives. Offer students an opportunity to share their own personal or observed experiences with discrimination.
3. Injustice–After being forced to leave Germany, Abraham discovers that no one will hire Jews. He decides to leave for the United States because, “In America, he’d heard, everyone was treated fairly.” Do you think what Abraham had heard about America was true? What injustices did he encounter in the United States after he had settled there? What did he do to make his new country a more fair and just place for all people? Discuss what Abraham meant when he said, “God did not make a world with just one color flower.”
4. Social Action–Both Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were men of words–words that inspired thousands of people. But they backed up their words with action. Discuss what the term social action means. Challenge students to offer examples of social action (petitions, protests, marches, writing to government leaders, boycotts, sit-ins, etc.). Discuss Rabbi Heschel’s statement, “It is important not only to protest evil, but to be seen protesting.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not? Challenge students to generate a list of social actions that they can do to make their school/community/world a better place.
5. Write the phrase power in numbers on the board. Lead a discussion on the meaning of this phrase and how it applies to events in the text.
6. Civil Rights–Some students may have heard or read about the Civil Rights Movement, but many may not know what the term actually means. Pass out dictionaries and direct students to look up the words civil and rights. After all students have found, read, and written the definitions, organize the class in a large circle to discuss the meaning of each word and to come up with a class definition of civil rights. While in the circle, conduct an interactive read-aloud of As Good as Anybody, focusing on the civil rights that Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were denied, and as adults, worked to obtain.
A Thousand Never Evers
Grades 5 up
Delacorte Press HC: 978-0-385-73470-7
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Alfred A. Knopf HC: 978-0-375-82247-6
The Watsons Go to
Christopher Paul Curtis
Grades 5 up
Yearling PB: 978-0-440-41412-4
Delacorte Press HC: 978-0-385-32175-4
Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin
Yearling PB: 978-0-440-40965-6
Many Thousand Gone:
African Americans from Slavery to Freedom
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Grades 3 up
Alfred A. Knopf trade PB: 978-0-679-87936-7
The People Could Fly:
The Picture Book
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Alfred A. Knopf HC: 978-0-375-82405-0
Book and CD package: 978-0-375-84553-6
Mirandy and Brother Wind
Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Dragonfly PB: 978-0-679-88333-3
Alfred A. Knopf HC: 978-0-394-88765-4
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Dragonfly PB: 978-0-679-81997-4
Alfred A. Knopf HC: 978-0-394-89694-6
Richard Michelson is a native New Yorker who was born and raised in Brooklyn. He is the
author of numerous books for both adults and children, including Across the Alley, a National Jewish Book Award finalist. He is also the owner of R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he represents many of the country’s most prominent children’s book illustrators. To learn more about his work, visit www.richardmichelson.com.
Raul Colón is an award-winning illustrator who has won both the Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators. His award winning picture books include Doña Flor and Tomás and the Library Lady, both by Pat Mora; A Band of Angels by Deborah Hopkinson; and Roberto Clemente by Jonah Winter. His work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. To learn more about Raul Colón, visit www.raulcolon.com.