By Deb Silverthorn
Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, journalist and author Nancy Churnin tells the stories of unsung heroes — heroes of heart and spirit, of gumption and goals. Churnin will celebrate her sixth book, “Martin & Anne — The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank,” released this week, at a launch party from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at Interabang Books on Preston Road in Dallas.
The children’s book is the story of Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Jr., who were both born in 1929, she on June 12, he Jan. 15. Their lives began a world apart, both facing ugly prejudices and violence, and both answering with words of love and faith in humanity.
In 23 pages, beautifully illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg with designs that “give hope,” says the author, Churnin tells of parallel journeys to find hope in darkness and follow dreams. Their stories include King’s confronting “whites only” signs and Frank’s yellow star-laden clothing, as well as the speech competition he won at 13, the age she was when she began the diary that would tell the world her story.
“Hate is always wrong and love always right — that’s what these two taught in life,” said Churnin. “I want Jewish children to identify with the fight for civil rights, for African-American children to understand the trials of the Jewish people, and all readers — because everyone comes from somewhere, and everyone’s history has had struggles — to become an inclusive people.”
Many of Churnin’s family were affected by the Holocaust, those who escaped — but lost everything — and others who didn’t survive. Her Hebrew name, Nechama, for her maternal great-grandmother, gave her a feeling of heritage, a link to the past.
Married to Michael Granberry, the mother of Ted, Sam, David and Josh, Churnin is the daughter of Flora and the late Douglas, and sister of Sharon, Jon and Marc. After a 19-year career with The Dallas Morning News, penning tales for little ones is now her full-time passion.
“I am so pleased that Nancy, through many of her books, has joined more authors in publishing children’s books about Upstanders. Their stories not only serve as inspiration but show us that every day people can make extraordinary decisions that change the world,” said Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum. “I encourage readers to view our Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank exhibition and to visit the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, opening in September, to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other great American civil rights leaders. ‘Martin & Anne’ is about Upstanders we honor every day.”
Churnin dedicated “Martin & Anne” to “those whose lives were cut short everywhere, including Bialystok June 27, 1941, your memory is a blessing, and love lives on.” Through her heart and writings, Churnin’s own lost family, and millions more, will never be forgotten.
“Today, many people live to 90, and what these two — and the many they represent — could have given the world in another 75 and 51 years, is only left to our imagination. If people had just protected the vulnerable, we could celebrate them instead of remember them,” said Churnin. “Babies born today will, God willing, be 90 in 2109. Will, or won’t they, be vulnerable?”
In addition to “Martin & Anne,” Churnin has published “The William Hoy Story — How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game,” “Manjhi Moves A Mountain, Charlie Takes His Shot — How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf,” “Irving Berlin — The Immigrant Boy who Made America Sing” and “The Queen and the Christmas Tree — Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England.” In 2020, “Beautiful Shades of Brown — How Laura Wheeler Waring Painted her World” and “For Spacious Skies,” about Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful,” will land on bookshelves.
To learn more about Churnin’s books and projects, or to have Churnin address a school or organization, visit nancychurnin.com or Nancy Churnin Children’s Books on Facebook. To register for Churnin’s writing class, visit tinyurl.com/churnin-writing-barn.