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Ruth and the Green Bookby Calvin A. Ramsey
This is a book that matters, and it pleases and succeeds on so many levels. Ruth and the Green Book is the story of a young girl and her parents who travel from their home in Chicago to visit relatives in Alabama. The book is set during the segregated 1940s, a time when it wasn't easy for a black family to find places to eat, shop, and sleep while making their way across the country. Aided by "The Negro Motorist Green Book" — a travel guide listing black-friendly businesses — the young family works together to make their journey. This is a children's picture book, but readers of any age will be uplifted by its soft images, gentle beauty, and the sense of love and community it imparts to the reader.
Synopses & Reviews
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 a gas 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 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.
"At the core of this expressively illustrated fusion of fact and fiction is The Negro Motorist Green Book, first published in 1936, which listed hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that would serve African-Americans during an era when many would not. Charged with emotion, playwright Ramsey's story opens on an upbeat note, with Ruth and her parents embarking on a cross-country trip in their new 1952 Buick, traveling from Chicago to Grandma's home in Alabama. The family's spirits plummet when they are turned away from a service station restroom and a hotel, and see 'White Only' signs in restaurant windows ('It hurt my feelings to be so unwelcome,' says Ruth). However, a copy of the Green Book they purchase soon puts them in contact with friendly, helpful people all along the way. A sense of resiliency courses through Cooper's (Back of the Bus) filmy illustrations — beatific portraits of the Esso worker who sells the family their Green Book and the owner of a 'tourist home' where the family spends the night radiate strength, kindness, and hope for a better future. Ages 7 — 11. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"The realistic illustrations are done in oil wash on board, a self-described 'subtractive process.' The picture is painted, then erased to 'paint' the final product. Overall, there is a sepialike quality to the art, giving the impression of gazing at old color photos. This is an important addition to picture book collections, useful as a discussion-starter on Civil Rights or as a stand-alone story." School Library Journal
"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." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Cooper masterfully captures the emotions of the characters, filling his pages with three-dimensional individuals. This story touches on a little-known moment in American history with elegance, compassion and humanity." Kirkus Reviews
Ramsey tells the story of one black family's trip from Chicago to Alabama by car in the late 1940s. Along the way they encounter prejudice, but they also discover "The Green Book," a real guide to accommodations for African-American travelers.
About the Author
Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Atlanta-based playwright, photographer, and folk art painter, grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and Roxboro, North Carolina. In addition to having been a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, Calvin has a passion for travel and has lived in New York City; Santa Monica, California; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix and St. John. He is a former Advisory Board Member of the Robert Woodruff Library Special Collections at Emory University in Atlanta. He is also a recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award. His plays have been performed in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; San Francisco; Valdez, Alaska; Omaha, Nebraska; Baltimore; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His plays include Bricktop, The Musical; The Green Book; Damaged Virtues; Canada Lee; Sherman Town, Baseball, Apple Pie and The Klan; Enlightenment; Sister Soldiers; Kentucky Avenue; Somewhere In My Lifetime; Johnny Mercer: A Man and His Music, a musical tribute to the author of Moon River and others; and The Age of Possibilities. His children's books are The Last Mule of Gee's Bend and Ruth and The Green Book. He is the father of three children, all of whom are writers.
Floyd Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in Honor for his illustrations for The Blacker the Berry and won CSK honors for Brown Honey In Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard Of A Land. He has illustrated numerous books, including Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Ramsey. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma. In 1984 he came to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator of books and now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two sons.
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