Use As Good As Anybody to relate current events in race relations to the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago. This book is also a good one to share in honoring King’s birthday on January 15th.
As Good As Anybody brings together the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel to end bigotry in the U.S. Their message is as timely now as it was in 1965. Combatting the injustice perpetrated by the white people in power, Heschel is quoted as saying: “It is important not only to protest evil, but to be seen protesting. Words must be followed by deeds.” On another page in the book, as Heschel answers King’s call to join the protest march from Selma to Montgomery, he asks, “How can we love our neighbors, if we abandon them in their time of need?”
Before the lives of the men literally converge in the protest march from Selma to Montgomery, their childhoods are portrayed separately, with the similarities in their situations underscored. Each boy was heavily influenced by his father and became a religious leader like his father before him. Both boys were ostracized as youngsters, one as an African American in the Jim Crow south, and the other as a Jew in Nazi Germany. Martin was told, “Some ignorant white people think they are better than colored people. But don’t you ever forget that you are just as good as anybody!” The main message Heschel got from his father sounded the same theme: “Walk like a prince, not a peasant. We are all God’s children. You are as good as anybody.” Most importantly, both men were brought up to take action. All the walking, stomping, and marching that occurs in the book represents the initiative both men took to try to better the lives of all. It culminates in the last line of the book, attributed to Abraham Heschel: “I feel like my legs are praying.”
The pastels of Raul Colon’s illustrations are different for the separate childhood stories. The pages of Martin Luther King Jr. are rendered in warm browns, while those of Heschel are in blues reminiscent of old World War II movies. When Heschel becomes an active participant in the Civil Rights movement, the blue and the brown palettes come together. And in the final pages depicting the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, both men are adorned in leis of muted rainbow colors.