Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Riding to Washington

Riding to Washington

Gwenyth Swain
Illustrator:  David Geister 
Historical Fiction Picture Book  Series
For ages 7 to 10
Sleeping Bear Press, 2008   ISBN: 978-1585363247

Janie has just found out that she is going to Washington D.C. with her daddy. Her daddy wants to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak and because Janie is such a handful, her mother has asked him to take Janie along. The twins are teething and Mama feels that she wouldn’t be able to manage Janie’s “mischief” along with everything else.

Janie is not at all sure why her daddy wants to go to Washington. All he will say is that will “see history” if they go. Janie has had very little contact with “coloreds” but her father works with many of them and he “thinks we should all work together.”

On Tuesday Janie and her father get onto an old bus which is going to take them from Indianapolis to Washington. Janie meets the wife of one of Daddy’s colleagues, Mrs. Taylor, and she notices that for the first time in her life she is going to be in a group where there are more colored people than there are white people.

The journey goes well enough though the travelers do start to get hungry. Unfortunately they cannot go into any of the restaurants along the way because “mixed groups” are not allowed. Janie and her father are not going to eat in a restaurant that won’t let their friends in the door.

In the middle of the night they get to a gas station and Mrs. Walker decides to get of the bus to go to the ladies room. She knows that there is a “No Coloreds” sign at the station but she gets down anyway. Janie decides to go with her and it is Janie’s words which convince the young man in the station to give them the key for the ladies room.

When they get to Washington, and as they listen to Martin Luther King’s words, Janie finally begins to realize why it was so important to come to Washington.

This very special book tells the story of how one little girl came to understand the significance of the March on Washington. Though it was important to be there to hear what Martin Luther King Jr. had to say, just getting on a bus to go so far was, in itself, a huge step towards building bridges and finding common ground. Janie discovers that her fellow travelers are not that different from herself and she comes to appreciate how terrible segregation is.

An author’s note at the back of the book explains the author’s own connection with the March on Washington and it clarifies further why this event was so important.

This book is one of the titles in the “Tales of Young American” series.