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Cover image for A time to act : John F. Kennedy's big speech
A time to act : John F. Kennedy's big speech
Physical Description:
53 pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Reading Level:
850 L Lexile
""The time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise." John F. Kennedy was born one hundred years ago. As America's thirty-fifth president, he often took bold actions: establishing a peace corps and challenging Americans to land on the moon. But on civil rights, it took the urging and the example of other courageous people--leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, and even students and children--to help him realize that the time to act was NOW. On June 11, 1963, Kennedy's "big speech"--His civil rights address--was a game changer, and his efforts laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964; but our country's work is not finished. Acclaimed author Shana Corey and artist R. Gregory Christie deliver a fresh and deeply human look at one of our country's most inspiring presidents, underscoring the greatness and fallibility of our leaders and how each one of us, no matter who we are, have the power to make a difference. With quotes from JFK's speeches, detailed back matter, and a thought-provoking author's note, this biography offers a sensitive look at a tumultuous time in history and compelling questions about effecting positive change today"--


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 973.922092 COR 1 1
Book J 973.922092 COR 1 1
Book J 973.922092 COR 1 1
Book J 973.922092 COR 1 2
Book E 973.922092 COR 1 1

On Order



School Library Journal Best Book of 2017

Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2017

Acclaimed author Shana Corey and New York Times Best Illustrated, Caldecott Honor, and Coretta Scott King Honor-winning artist R. Gregory Christie deliver a fresh look at President John F. Kennedy and his relationship with the civil rights movement.

From prominent leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson to children and teenagers, it was the people speaking out and working for civil rights through sits-ins, freedom rides, and marches who led John F. Kennedy to take a stand.

And with his June 11, 1963, civil rights address, he did.

This is the story of JFK--from his childhood to the events that led to his game-changing speech and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Corey and Christie offer a deeply human look at our country's thirty-fifth president, underscoring how each one of us, no matter who we are, have the power to make a difference.

With quotes from JFK's speeches, detailed back matter, and a thought-provoking author's note, this biography--in time for what would be JFK's 100th birthday--offers a sensitive look at a tumultuous time in history and compelling questions about effecting positive change today.

Author Notes

Shana Corey has written several picture books, among them Here Come the Girl Scouts!, a New York Times Editors' Choice, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer, which the New York Times called "a picture book girls are likely to love." and The Secret Subway, which Kirkus called "Absolutely wonderful in every way." Learn more at

R. Gregory Christie received the Caldecott Honor Award in 2016. He is a three-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration and a two-time recipient of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year Award. He's also a recipient of the NAACP's Image Award, The Boston Globe's Horn Book Award, and the American Library Associations' Theodore Seuss Geisel Award in Illustration. He lives in Georgia.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Corey (The Secret Subway) and Christie (Freedom in Congo Square) celebrate the birthday centenary of John F. Kennedy with an engaging picture book biography primarily focused on the former president's evolution on the topic of civil rights. A conversational narrative starts out speaking directly to readers: "The people who make history aren't just famous leaders.... They're real people, just like you. Sometimes they are you." After spreads detailing Kennedy's childhood, military service, and early political career, the story turns to civil rights and the president's initial hesitancy to advocate for meaningful reform. Corey adeptly contextualizes Kennedy's eventual arrival at action, amid protests and desegregation attempts, and his historic antidiscrimination speech that set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Christie's expressive paintings veer toward the abstract, with skewed proportions and bold brushstrokes, yet the realism of the faces stands out. An empowering conclusion ("And so now it's your turn... to speak up, to act... to make history") is followed by an author's note, bibliography, source notes, and brief vignettes about other notable figures who appear in the story. Ages 8-up. Author's agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

With inspiring quotes integrated throughout, this dense picture-book biography, which spans JFK's life but centers on civil rights progress, urges young readers to speak out against injustice. Corey acknowledges Kennedy's imperfect handling of complex issues; Christie's stylized paintings include striking scenes of contemporaneous unrest. An author's note and bios (with portraits) of other icons from the era are appended. Reading list, websites. Bib. (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This picture-book biography of John Kennedy's life, which celebrates his one hundredth birthday, focuses on his hesitations and then help with the civil rights movement. The story moves chronologically, introducing the second in a wealthy family of nine; the kid who liked to read; the slacker (and often ill) brother of the family's shining star, Joe. The staccato text, moving quickly through Jack's childhood, adolescence, and war years, sometimes misses out on nuances (young Jack didn't merely write a letter to his father about his allowance; it was brash, funny, and pointed), but offers a fine overall sense of the early Kennedy. The book gets meatier and uses slightly longer sentences as it explains the impact of the civil rights movement on the country, Kennedy's presidency, and the man himself. Corey does an excellent job of subtly showing the contradictions between some of Kennedy's words; for instance, quoting him as a candidate saying, We must act in the image of Abraham Lincoln, and then, as president, moving cautiously on voting rights to avoid disturbing Southern Democrats. Though the big speech of the book's subtitle refers to his civil rights address of 1963, there are other important quotes here for readers to ponder. The dramatic and innovative illustrations beautifully capture a place in time and the people who inhabited it. The back matter is a powerful addition to a most thoughtful book.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2017 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave an eloquent speech in which he made a plea for civil rights for African Americans. He was lauded for his blunt but sincere appeal to ensure equality for all Americans. Corey begins with biographical information on Kennedy, including his wealthy upbringing in an influential family, his illnesses as a child, his run for Congress, and his eventual election to the presidency. The text then segues into the struggle of African Americans to achieve civil rights, detailing the arduous work of sit-ins, marches, and Freedom Rides. Finally, the story returns to Kennedy's 1963 speech to Congress. Though mostly adulatory in tone, the book points out that Kennedy was, for political reasons, hesitant to take action, thus providing a contrast between the man who wrote Profiles in Courage and the politician in the White House. Christie's impressionistic illustrations are poignant and enhance the straightforward narrative. Back matter includes a section that identifies notable figures featured in the artwork and offers additional background on them. VERDICT Though there are numerous biographies on Kennedy for this audience, few focus solely on his role in civil rights, making this work a dynamic addition for U.S. history collections.-Margaret Nunes, Gwinnett County Public Library, GA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A roundabout history of President John F. Kennedy's June 11, 1963, address on American civil rights.Corey starts this story of Kennedy's speech, and the context under which it was delivered, earlytoo earlyin Kennedy's life. Readers learn that his brother was his father's favorite and that he was sickly. They also learn that he came from wealth, but Corey doesn't take this opportunity to discuss class in America and how it impinges on racism. Instead, readers learn he was a courageous soldier in World War II and wrote Profiles in Courage. The writing is choppy, perhaps in an effort to be punchy: "In 1946, Jack ran for Congress. His whole family helped. His father gave money and advice. His mother and sisters gave teas." By midbook, Corey begins to focus in on Kennedy's political conundrum. When it comes to Kennedy's dallying on the civil rights issue, Corey does hit a number of nails squarely on the head: Kennedy was being upstaged by children on their crusade, he was losing the African-American vote, he played politics with Congress. Still, the speech was historic, as the book implies, and the author's note elaborates upon this. Christie's illustrations show a good, moody application of radiant paint and a sharp caricaturist's touch. A halting misuse of page space that, in the end, finally presents Kennedy's speech in the proper light. (thumbnail bios of civil rights figures, bibliography, sources, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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