I’m back from South Texas and back on my blog! It’s great to see the kids at school again after the winter break, but boy, do they wear me out! I introduced mystery stories and mystery writing to my fourth grade students this week. We will be working on our stories for the next six weeks. I’ve decided to write one with them for my first picture book manuscript of the year. We have several mystery picture books in our library collection. Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective by David Biedrzycki is one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to the challenge!
Now for Perfect Picture Book Friday Sponsored by Susanna Leonard Hill! You would think I might choose a mystery, but…nope! I chose a historical fiction picture book that I brought home from school before the holiday break. It is called…
Ruth and the Green Book
Written by Calvin Alexander and Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Published in 2010 by Carolrhoda Books
This book is suitable for ages 8-12
Themes: civil rights, travel, history, African Americans
“It was a BIG day at our house when Daddy drove up in our very own automobile-a 1952 Buick! It is the most beautiful color. Daddy calls it Sea Mist Green. He bought it for his new job, but first, we planned to go on a trip to visit Grandma in Alabama…” As Ruth and her parents enter the deep South, they encounter gas station attendants and motel operators who turn them away because they are African American. Ruth does not understand why they are being treated this way. Ruth’s father finally finds an Esso service station where the attendant introduces him to the Green Book. The guide lists all of the establishments in the South where their business is welcome. Ruth helps her father by locating an inn in the Green Book where they can stay on their way to Grandma’s house.
Links to Resources:
Green Book Lesson Unit including comprehension questions about Ruth and the Green Book
Official site for Ruth and the Green Book
University of South Carolina Green Book digital images collection
Why I like this book: I taught African American history units for years, and I had never heard of the Green Book prior to reading this picture book. (I’m really quite stunned that I did not know of its existence.) The official name of the guide was The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, and it was first published in 1936 by an African American named Victor Green. Green saw a need for such a guide during the era of segregation in America. Ruth and the Green Book is a work of realistic fiction that accurately captures the experience of many African American motorists traveling in the South during the period of Jim Crow.
As I read the story, I thought about how scary it would feel to see signs everywhere telling me that I was not welcome. Where would I get gas? Where would I eat or sleep? While the Green Book was a godsend for so many African American travelers in the South, it was also a testament to the injustice that existed for African Americans in a country that preached equality for all. In his introduction, Green wrote: “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal rights and privileges in the United States.” The last edition of the Green Book was published in 1964, the same year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.
This book is an American Library Association Notable Children’s book and a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor Book.