Author Nancy Churnin's New Direction with Martin & Anne
Updated: Feb 4
The acclaimed PB bio author discusses her journey in the genre.
By Nancy Churnin, author of Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wrote my first picture book to honor the memory of a worthy person. I didn’t know when I started my journey I’d make my dreams come true and, I hope, inspire kids to make theirs come true as well. Diving Into PB Bios In 2003, I became friends with Steve Sandy, who is friends with the family of William Hoy, the great 19th-Century Deaf baseball player. Steve, who is Deaf, shared his dream to spread the word about Hoy. I promised I would, hoping the book would instill pride, underline the power of persistence and break down walls between the Deaf and the hearing. It took until 2016 to get The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game published because I had to spend time not only researching Hoy, but to learn how to write a picture book biography! Once I did, however, I’d found my passion. There had to be more worthy people out there whose story had yet to be told. And there were! Manjhi Moved a Mountain followed in 2017. In 2018: Charlie Takes His Shot; Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing and The Queen and the First Christmas Tree. A New Approach in Martin & Anne In Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I’m departing from a lot of what I’ve learned to tell my most deeply personal story, which is affected by my own family’s experience with the Holocaust. My aim was to write about people who have been overlooked. But these two are well known. My approach has been to focus on one person at a time. Here I would be telling parallel journeys. Why? Because from the moment it came to me that Dr. King and Anne Frank were born in the same year, 1929, the year of the Great Depression, my mind was flooded with how much their words, their hearts, their spirits had in common. It struck me how much a focus on our differences allows us to generalize groups as the “other” and, sadly, how prejudice intensifies when times are hard and people are looking for an “other” to blame. They spoke different languages and lived in different countries. Yet, when you follow their parallel journeys, from common yearning for simple things like swimming in a public pool, or buying an ice cream cone, to their unflagging powerful belief in the goodness of humanity, kids see how similar they are. Connecting Further Through Activities It’s my hope that Martin & Anne will be a vehicle to talk about how much we all have in common. That’s why in addition to the free teacher guide I provide with all my books, there is also a free project (also provided with all my books). The project for Martin & Anne is Kindred Spirits. There is a page on my website, set aside for kids, classes and schools that reach out to other kids, classes and schools in different neighborhoods, cities, states, even countries, to explore and celebrate all they have in common. * Learn more about Nancy's #DiverseKidlitNF book, Martin & Anne, here, here, and here! And find Nancy online here and here: On Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books On Twitter: @nchurnin On Instagram: @nchurnin Reviews for Martin & Anne “A surprisingly successful and enlightening combination strengthened by striking artwork.” (Picture book/biography. 5-9) — Kirkus Reviews "With foresight, the emphasis is on recognizing and resisting the threat of bigotry in all its forms and in nurturing the bonds of our common humanity."— Susan Faust, San Francisco Chronicle “This is an important book, and even though it’s not explicitly stated, Hitler’s policy of exclusion of Jews from daily public life was based on the discrimination and Jim Crow laws that existed in the US at that time. It’s a perfect addition to any school library and a wonderful read aloud to children of all ages.”—Pamela Kramer, Six Fabulous Picture Books to Celebrate Black History Month “The time for Martin & Anne is right now, and their parallel story can be a valuable, satisfying addition to school, library, and home bookshelves.” — Gary Anderson, Goodreads