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Voices from the March on Washington, 1963

Voices from the March on Washington
By J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon
WordSong, 978-1-62091-785-5
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From the authors' introduction:
You may know the March as the occasion for Dr. King?s "I Have a Dream" speech, certainly the most dramatic moment of the day, summing up a vision for the future and exhorting all who were present to bring that dream into reality. You may know the March as one of the critical steps leading to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made segregation illegal, and to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discrimination in voting.

But on that sweltering Wednesday half a century ago, no one knew where the steps they were taking would lead. And, crucial as the Big Six were in creating the March and articulating its goals, they were just a tiny island in that multicolored sea of people. Who were the Marchers? Why did they risk their lives to be there? How were they changed by that day?

These are questions we carried in our hearts as we researched and wrote Voices from the March on Washington. We hope that in reading our poems, you?ll feel as though you?re part of that great gathering, with all its idealism and courage. While we?ve come a long way toward equality in fifty years, we?ve still got a long way to go. Soon it will be your turn to guide this country. Never forget that you can make a difference. You, too, have a voice.

Cybil Award 2014

Read an interview with George Ella about the book on Sylvia Vardell's poetry blog, Poetry for Children. The interview includes excerpts from "Poetry and Social Justice," Syvia's article that appears in the September 2014 issue of Book Links.


  • Cybil Award, Poetry, 2014
  • Honor Book, California Reading Association?s EUREKA! Nonfiction Children's Book Awards, 2014
  • Chicago Public Library "Best Books" list, Best Informational Books for Older Readers, 2014Eureka Honor Book 2014
  • Booklist's Top 10 list of the best Multicultural Nonfiction titles for Youth, 2014
  • Choose to Read Ohio booklist, 2017 & 2018

★"Lewis and Lyon join forces for a fictionalized account of one of the pivotal moments in U.S. civil rights history?the March on Washington?this landmark occasion is often remembered for the epic "I Have a Dream" speech Martin Luther King Jr. delivered that day, along with galvanizing remarks and performances from other civil rights leaders and well-known African-American artists. Later, the March would be recognized for its critical role in helping to facilitate passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. While Lewis and Lyon include all of that historical import, what sets their account apart is less their rendering of the event's fabled leaders than the varied "voices" in the throng who traveled from all over as "the day swelled to keep faith with its promise / of distressing the assured and assuring the distressed." Through over 70 largely first-person poems, the poets rekindle the spirit of the fight for racial equality in the United States with imagined voices of young and old, black and white, educated and underprivileged, supporters and detractors and drive home the volume's theme of taking personal responsibility in helping this country "steer toward justice together." A powerful yet accessible guide to "one day in 1963 [that] [b]elongs to every age."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it "the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation." The historic August 28, 1963 march on Washington drew 250,000 people to the nation's Capital and wrote a new chapter in the history of the civil rights movement. Now poets J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon have written their own chapter in this collection of original poems that examine and celebrate the occasion and its aftermath in a variety of voices both real and imagined. The co-authors pose three questions-Who were the marchers? Why did they risk their lives to be there? How were they changed by that day?-and answer them in eloquent verse both free and rhymed. The imagined voices memorialize the splendid variety of the people who marched, among them Ruby May Hollingsworth, 6, a first grader from Mountain Home, Arkansas; Emma Wallace, 23, a farm hand from Seymour, Iowa; and, from Amarillo,Texas, Raymond Jarvis, 25, an out-of-work store clerk with a B. A. degree in business administration. From any perspective, however, the march was history in the making and this collection is a fitting memorial to it."—Booklist, starred review

"In this collection of 70 short poems, Lewis and Lyon introduce the 1963 March on Washington through the perspectives of those who took part. The participants, young and old, come from all over...and they express a variety of feelings: wide-eyed optimism, frustration, cynicism, and apprehension. The first poem, "Reflection," a concrete poem in the shape of the National Mall's reflecting pool, sets the stage by noting that many of the 250,000 marchers are drawn by "unfulfilled promises," while in "Crossing the Potomac," a marcher affirms, "We'll turn the other cheek/like the Good Lord said, but we have come/for our rights and we won't turn back." The book contains plenty of detail and references to actual people...The poems keep the action moving forward, as the marchers arrive, assemble, and are inspired by the significance of the peaceful demonstration. Supplemental matter helps track fictional voices and real individuals. This well-crafted introduction to the Civil Rights era deserves a wide audience, as these poems, with their plain-spoken, honest emotions, offer insight into the past, and inspiration to continue the struggle."—School Library Journal

Watch the book trailer for Voices from the March on Washington:


Holding on to Zoe

Holding on to Zoe
Margaret Ferguson Book/Farrar Straus & Giroux
0-374-33264-8, $17.99 hardcover, Grades 9 & up
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»»  Download press release
»»  Download interview questions with George Ella Lyon about writing Zoe

Jules is a high-school student who discovers she's pregnant and is determined to have her baby, even though her mother-and her doctor-say she will never come to term. Before too long we realize that something is not quite right with Jules-and with the baby she clings to. As days and weeks pass, Jules's world grows smaller and smaller. Her mother won't give her the support she needs. Her friends shy away from her. Don't they know how much this baby means to Jules? Can't they see Zoe and she together make a whole?

Through the intervention of a caring doctor and a warm neighbor, we grow to understand why Jules so fiercely cares for, loves, and depends on Zoe. This compelling and haunting story takes us into the damaged heart of a girl and the baby she can't let go of.

"Sensitively weaving the past and present together, Lyon adroitly describes the texture of the troubled teen's world in the girl's voice, which switches tenses appropriately. Particularly masterful is her depiction of Jules's social-worker mother, an icy, furious woman who is so emotionally tone-deaf that she's surprised when a potential client with cancer is offended when she asks if the woman will be around long enough to collect benefits. ? an intriguing window into the life of a damaged teen."—Kirkus Reviews

"...Lyon offers a haunting portrayal of a girl's psychological trauma and the defenses she builds in order to feel less alone in the world."—Publishers Weekly

"Through the first-person narrative, Lyon portrays a troubled young woman from deep inside, maintaining the tight focus of Jules?s distorted perspective throughout the story...even as her inner world breaks from the outside one, her primal need for love and safety resonates."—Horn Book

"...readers will be intrigued by this unique story."—Booklist

"Lyon brings in the real issues that can and do cause so much heartbreak around teen pregnancies: disappearing boyfriends, conflicts with parents, the shortage of affordable child care, and getting a high school diploma as the girl struggles with her delusions and refuses to accept the truth."—School Library Journal

"This book is sensitive, real and tragic. It is an issue book that changes issues as the story continues, something that is unique and fascinating."—Waking Brain Cells Blog

"...readers will gain an important new perspective on why some teens welcome the idea of pregnancy."—Bulletin of the Center for Children?s Books


  • CCBC Choices 2012 (Cooperative Children?s Book Center)

Book Trailer

Sonny's House of Spies

Sonny's House of Spies
Atheneum 2004
0-689-85168-5, $16.95 hardcover, Grades 6 & up

"A poignant story set in Alabama in the 1950s. Thirteen-year-old Sonny longs for his father, who left the family when he was six. Uncle Marty, a local bachelor and an Elder at the One-Way Word of Faith Tabernacle, begins to escort the family to church, becoming a friend to Sonny's mother. The boy has a humorous way of describing his elders, seeing their foibles, yet remaining positive and sympathetic toward them."—starred review, School Library Journal

"Racially divided, homophobic, post-WWII Alabama serves as the setting for Lyon's exceptionally well-crafted coming-of-age story."—starred review, Publisher's Weekly

"This lively novel crackles with it sensitively explores Sonny's world."—starred review, The Horn Book

Nominated for:

  • The Bluegrass Award

With a Hammer for My Heart

With a Hammer for My Heart
University Press of Kentucky
978-0813191751, $16.00 paper, for teens and adults

Reissued in June 2007 as part of the Kentucky Voices series.

"A rich tale of healing, redemption, and social responsibility."—Publishers Weekly

"Lyon gives readers a story rich in precise, gorgeous language that glows like a sword on the forge and cuts as deep...Tragedies old and new weave a tiny Kentucky town into the center of the universe."—starred review, Booklist

"The dialogue in this wonderful story is moving, often funny, and always true to life."—School Library Journal

"With her poet's pen, Lyon has fashioned as fine and moving a love story as you'll ever read, just about as strange and wonderful as life itself. Filled with passion, pain, and redemption, this novel is a classic."—Lee Smith

"With a love of language that comes from the heart of a people, George Ella Lyon has plunged right into the souls of a wide range of characters who are tender, human, funny and true."—Bobbie Ann Mason


Here and Then

Here and Then: a Civil War Time-Travel Tale
Motes Books
978-1-934894-14-9, $8.00 paperback, Grades 4-7
Reissued 2010

"Lyon's evocative style convinces...readers that extraordinary times lead to extraordinary events...Movingly conveyed by a tightly woven plot and a strong sense of place."—School Library Journal

"Lyrical and beautifully crafted."—Kirkus Reviews

"Compelling...Lyon's novel about ghostly encounters and transfigurations quite literally brings history to life."—Publishers Weekly

"Lyon has written an entertaining novel that will compel readers to stay with [it] to the end."—Voice of Youth Advocates

Where I'm From

Where I'm From, Where Poems Come From
Absey and Co., 1999
0-888-84212-1, $13.95 hardcover

A hands-on poetry workshop

"This guide to poetry writing carries a simple message: You have within you everything you need to write."—The Riverbank Review

"Novice poets will appreciate Lyon's encouragement and enthusiasm for a challenging genre."—Booklist

"This combination memoir and how-to by a well-known children's book author will attract anyone interested in the creative writing process."—Booklist 'Crossovers: Children's Books for Adults'

"This combination of memoir and writing guide is inspiring and thought provoking. A delicious read!"—Kristine O'Connell George


  • NY Public Library Best Book for the Teenage
It All Connects

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