Eve Bunting has published over two hundred picture books. Last year, she wrote The Cart that Carried Martin, a poignant account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral for young readers. Recently, she discussed her reasons for writing the book and her own memories of Dr. King’s death with Kidsbiographer.
Kidsbiographer: How did you decide to write The Cart that Carried Martin?
Eve Bunting: Since coming from Ireland to California, I have become aware of racial prejudice, one kind of problem we didn’t have in the Ireland of that time. Soon I heard of Martin Luther King, his importance and the legacy of his life. I began to read about him and the more I read the more I admired him. In 2008 I came upon an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution written by journalist Jim Auchmutey. He told about the cart that carried his body to his funeral, of the two mules that drew the cart and of the crowds that came to mourn and say their farewells. A humble funeral for a humble man. That article was the spark that set me thinking about writing a book for children. Did children know this story? If not, could I tell them how it was, and how it still is?
I did research, then more and more research. Soon I was filled not only with facts, but with emotion. I was ready to write.
Kidsbiographer: The Cart that Carried Martin is written in a very simple style; I can imagine parents reading it aloud to very young children. And yet, despite the simple prose, the text is poignant and powerful. Tell me how you crafted this moving, accessible narrative.
Eve Bunting: More than anything I wanted to reach young children. I had found that there were many books for an older audience about Dr. King. Not so many for younger readers. I like to write for that age level and have done many, many books for kindergartners and first and second graders. I can’t tell you exactly how I pull up that childlike voice. It comes easily, especially when I have something that I believe needs to be told, words that they can read for themselves or that they can understand when they are “read to.”
Kidsbiographer: Can you describe your own memories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and your emotions when you learned of his death?
Eve Bunting: I never did see or hear Dr. King in person, but I loved what I heard him say on television and in books. On the day he was assassinated, I was in my front garden when a neighbor drove by in a car, rolled down her window and shouted out to me, “They’ve killed Martin Luther King.” She was crying. I ran to her car. She was so disturbed that the car didn’t come to a full stop, but ran on, slowly, and bumped into a lamppost. She was not injured. The mark of that day is still there, on that lamppost, right outside my door.
Kidsbiographer: What do you hope young readers and listeners will take away from The Cart that Carried Martin?
Eve Bunting: I hope young readers will come away from reading my picture book with a new understanding of Dr. King’s greatness, his humility, the love that his followers had for him, his vision of peace.That they will want to know more about him. If that happens, then I will have honored him in the way I wanted to when I wrote The Cart that Carried Martin.