Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Ruth and the Green Book shows how racial segregation affected an average African American family. When Ruth's dad buys a car the family decides to drive from Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandma. There were few places the Jim Crow laws didn't reach and the "open road" was no exception. Many hotels, restaurants and service stations refused to serve Ruth's family. After eating and sleeping in the car, Ruth's excitement about her vacation is tainted with worry and fatigue.

A friendly traveler gives Ruth's family a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. Published by Victor H. Green from 1936-'64, The Green Book listed gas stations, barber shops and homes of those willing to give African American travelers a place to rest, eat a good meal and fix up their cars between destinations. Ruth enjoys picking out  "Tourist Homes" from the book. Cooper's illustrations capture the scenic countryside and intimate family dynamics as Ruth's family travels to grandma's house.

If you are interested in The Green Book you can view a full 1949 edition in PDF here. It's a lot of fun to look up your state and see the names of people and businesses from a town near you that accommodated traveling families like Ruth's during the Jim Crow era. Ruth and the Green Book is a touching story great for early elementary students. Listen to a podcast with illustrator Floyd Cooper here. This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge!

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books, 2010     Pages: 32    
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper     Source: Public Library
Rating: 3.5 Stars

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