Jewish Books to Read for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year in January, the United States celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the foremost civil rights leader and activist in the 1950s and 1960s. Reverend Dr. King’s efforts in advancing the civil rights movement and racial equality also reflect the Jewish value of b’tzelem elohim, the belief that all people are created in God’s image.

To honor the work of Dr. King, this book list, with a mix of PJ Library selections and other titles, features Jewish children's books about values like b’tzelem elohim and tikkun olam (repairing the world), values that Dr. King taught and held dear.

Ages 4 – 8

I am Rosa Parks

I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

Recommended for ages 4 to 8

Suitable for the smallest readers to explain Rosa Parks’s history in a way that is easy to understand, this book is perfect for adults who want to educate their little ones about the history of civil rights and the fight for equality.


How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Helle

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

The value of tzedakah is rooted in the pursuit of justice for all. As Dalia explores this concept with her friends, she creates a tzedakah box where she can keep the money she’s saving to help those in need. In the process Dalia, her friends and her little brother Yossi learn about the power and joy of giving to others.


Mrs. Katz and Tush

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco

Recommended for ages 5+

A long-lasting friendship develops between Larnel, a young African-American, and Mrs. Katz, a lonely Jewish widow, when Larnel presents Mrs. Katz with a scrawny kitten.


Across the Alley

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

Recommended for ages 6+

Abe’s grandfather wants him to be a violinist; Willie’s father assumes he’ll grow up to be a baseball superstar. As it turns out, the boys are happiest when they exchange hobbies!


Sit-In

Sit-In by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Recommended for ages 6+

This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement.

Ages 9 – 12

As Good As Anybody

As Good As Anybody by Richard Michelson

Recommended for ages 6 to 9

A Baptist preacher from Atlanta. A rabbi born in Poland. Their names came to stand for the struggle for justice and equality.


Dear Mr. Rosenwald

Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Boston Weatherford

Recommended for ages 7 to 10

Based on the true story of the Rosenwald schools built in the rural African-American South in the 1920s, writer and poet Carol Boston Weatherford tells the lyrical story of third grader Ovella as her family and community help each other build a new, and much-prayed for, school.


A Horn for Louis by Eric A. Kimmel

Recommended for ages 8+

In the early part of the 20th century, young Louis Armstrong is helped by a Jewish family in his quest to own a “real” horn. In the process, Louis learns about Hanukkah and the power of friendship and goodwill.


Martin & Anne

Martin & Anne by Nancy Churnin

Recommended for ages 8-14

Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born the same year a world apart. Both faced ugly prejudices and violence, which both answered with words of love and faith in humanity. This is the story of their parallel journeys to find hope in darkness and to follow their dreams.


Suzie Q Fights Back

Suzie Q Fights Back by Jane Cutler

Recommended for ages 9+

When Susan moves from New York to St. Louis, she discovers that her new friend, Loretta, can’t live in their building because she’s black. It’s so unfair, but it’s the law! Susan and her friends want things to change, but what can a few kids do?


This Promise of Change

This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbi Levy

Recommended for ages 10+

If Brown v. Board of Education's promise of change was to become reality, people had to take action. In the small town of Clinton, Tennessee, twelve African American high school students stepped up. You probably haven’t heard of the Clinton 12, but what they did in 1956 was front-page news all over the nation.


Stealing Home

Stealing Home by Ellen Schwartz

Recommended for ages 11+

Baseball is a great escape, but can it solve your problems? Nine year-old Joey Sexton has to grow up fast – his African American dad is gone, his Jewish mother just died, and now he has been sent to live with his mother’s family in Brooklyn. Joey’s zayde (grandfather) acts as though Joey can’t do anything right. Sure, Joey can play a mean game of baseball, but is that enough to impress the person whose affection he wants most?


Discover more picture books to read about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy.