Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ruth and the Green Book

Ramsey, Calvin A. and Strauss, Gwen. Ruth and the Green Book. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. 2010. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books. ISBN: 978-0-7613-5255-6.

Awards: ALA Notable Book for Children, 2011. Jane Addams Book Honor, 2011.

Author Website:

Illustrator Website:

Media: Oil wash on board, realistic style. Process: picture is painted and then partially erased to create photograph-like quality.

Use of Alliteration: (p. 30) “see Grandma and tell her what a great Green Book guide I had been.”

Curricular Connection: California History / Social Science, Grade 8, California Standard: 8.11.3: Understand the effects of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the restrictions placed on the rights and opportunities of freedmen, including racial segregation and “Jim Crow” laws.

Additional Notation(s): 2010 copyright.

Annotation: In the early 1950’s, Ruth and her parents take a road trip to Alabama and encounter prejudice because they are African-American. Ruth learns about Jim Crow laws and the family relies on the Green Book to find accommodations and services.

Personal Reaction: The main character in the book, Ruth narrates this story about Jim Crow laws and segregation. I was struck by the seriousness of the subject matter in contrast to the young voice of the story. Still, this would be a good introductory book for civil rights studies for eighth graders who are charged with learning about Jim Crow laws. Especially helpful is a full-page history of the Negro Motorist Green Book at the end of Ruth’s story. This page includes information about the passage of Civil Rights legislation in 1964. The simplicity of the text is initially misleading; this is a powerful book and gives the reader personal insight in to a black family’s experience during this era in U.S. history. The oil wash illustrations by Coretta Scott King Award winner Cooper have a photograph-like quality that captures the emotions of the characters from hurt to happiness. Author Ramsey is a playwright who has also penned a play about Jim Crow Laws called The Green Book.