On rare occasions in the publishing world, an author and illustrator connect as friends and collaborators. Such is the case of Chris Barton and Don Tate, the author and illustrator of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, who live in Austin, Texas. The book begins, “John Roy Lynch had an Irish father and an enslaved mother. By the law of the South before the Civil War, that made John Roy and his brother half Irish and all slave.”
In the picture book biography, John Roy’s story begins at his birth to the free Irish overseer who intended to buy freedom for his slave wife and children but died before he could accomplish his goal. Instead of becoming free when he was two, John Roy’s life moves from one slave situation to another, through his difficult early life as a free man, and on to his ultimate role as a United States Representative.
Representative Lynch's quote in the book, “When every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her, and their rights are fully protected by the strong arm of a generous and grateful Republic, then we can all truthfully say that this beautiful land of ours, over which the Star Spangled Banner so triumphantly waves is, in truth and in fact, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave,’ ” makes this an appropriate read for Martin Luther King Day.
Both the author and illustrator notes express regret that so little is known about the days of Reconstruction. Their back matter includes a historical note, a timeline, both author’s and illustrator’s notes, possibilities for further reading, and graphic maps. This book with its lively text and illustrations recounts the true story of one man who experienced going from a teenaged field slave to U. S. Congressman in ten years’ time. It helps shine a light on a little known period of American history and on the promise and potential in the American people.