Ruth and the Green Book

Book Reviews

Ruth and the Green Book.

Ramsey, Calvin A. (author). Illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
Nov. 2010. 32p. Carolrhoda, hardcover, $16.95 (9780761352556). Grades 2-5.
REVIEW. First published November 1, 2010 (Booklist).

In this powerful picture book, Atlanta playwright Ramsey tells a 1950s story from “unknown pages in African American history.” Cooper’s glowing, unframed, sepia-toned artwork delivers a strong sense of the period from a child’s viewpoint. Driving with her parents from Chicago to Grandma’s house in Alabama, Ruth is excited until the family is refused access to the restroom at a service station. They face more bitter realities of segregation when they sleep in the car because they are turned away from hotels. The double-page spreads show the hurt, anger, and scariness of the “No Vacancy” signs, but words and images also capture moments of peace, as Ruth sings and feels safe with her loving parents as they drive across the country. Then they are welcomed at an Esso station, where they get a copy of the pamphlet called The Negro Motorist Green Book, which lists places where black people are welcome. A joyful reunion with Grandma brings the book to a warm close. With a long final note about The Green Book, this is a compelling addition to U.S. history offerings. — Hazel Rochman

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander.  Ruth and the Green Book; illus. by Floyd Cooper.  Carolrhoda, 2010.  32p
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-7613-5255-6 $26.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-7613-6218-0 $9.53        R 5-9 yrs

An ever-expanding system of roads and highways beckoned to motorists in the mid-1900s, but the glamour of the open road was often illusory for African-American citizens, particularly those traversing the Jim Crow South. In this fictional account of a family trip, Ramsey introduces young listeners to the blatant discrimination facing those travelers, but more importantly, to the network of businesses and individuals who opened their doors with welcome assistance. The Negro Motorist Green Book, devised and expanded by Victor Green, was an invaluable aid, listing black-owned service stations, restaurants, and overnight accommodations. As narrator Ruth and her parents make their way from Chicago to her grandmother in Alabama, the girl becomes adept at using their seventy-five-cent resource and passes along information about the book to another beset traveler they meet at an inn. Cooper’s soft, stippled illustrations capture both the pathos of the bigotry and the warmth of the support the family encounters, and a substantial closing note on the Green Book itself invites the audience to explore it further online. This will be a fascinating addition to any civil rights picture-book collection and perhaps even a quick intro to a classroom novel unit on The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 (BCCB 1/96).  EB

Horn Book Guide:
Ramsey, Calvin Alexander Ruth and the Green Book
   32 pp. Carolrhoda 2010. ISBN 978-0-7613-5255-6
(3) K-3 Illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
Ruth is excited to be driving with her parents from Chicago to Alabama in their “very own automobile–a 1952 Buick!” The trip starts out well, but the family continually runs up against segregation until they learn about The Negro Motorist Green Book, a pamphlet “to help black people who were traveling.” Ramsey fashions a well-told historical narrative, supported by Cooper’s expressive paintings.


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