Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Book Jacket

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car!

In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure.  But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns.  Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people.  Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws...

Finally, a friendly attendant at an Esso station showed Ruth's family The Green Book.  It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers.  With this guidebook--and the kindness of strangers--Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in rural Alabama.

Ruth's story is fiction, but The Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact. 


This is a great introduction to segregation and discrimination for kids.  The grossness of the time is evident, but it is also balanced by kindness and a family of people willing to help each other out.  This is a great topic to introduce to kids, discussing a recent past in which people were treated like animals for no other reason than the color of their skin.  I especially liked practical Ruth asking, "Why don't they want our business?  Wasn't our money just the same?"  Ridiculous.

The message of the story is both eduational and uplifting, but what really deserves mention are the pictures.  The setting comes alive, the characters are vivid, expressive, and realistic.  My absolute favorite picture was of Ruth and her parents singing loudly in their car, mouths happily stretched wide.

Stories about discrimination in the 1950s make me mad, and I generally hate them.  I just can't stand what we humans do to each other out of ignorance and hatred.  However, Ruth and the Green Book is a nice change of pace.  The badness is all there, but the story is ultimately one of love and kindness.

Five out of five brown bears.

Release Date:  August 2010
Reading Level: Grade 1+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM

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