Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ruth and the Green Book

Ruth and the Green Book

Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Illustrator:  Floyd Cooper 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Carolrhoda Books, 2010   ISBN: 978-0761352556

Ruth is very excited when her father buys a car, a 1952 Buick, the first car the family has ever owned. Her father bought the car to help him get around for his new job, but first Ruth and her parents are going to drive all the way from Chicago to Alabama so that they can visit Ruth’s grandmother.

As they drive south, Ruth soon discovers that the trip is not going to be as easy as she thought. She and her family are not allowed to use the bathrooms in the gas stations, or eat in the restaurants, or stay in the hotels. All these places have a White Only sign in their windows to make it clear that Ruth and her family are not welcome. Ruth and her parents do their best not to let the situation get them down, but it is still a hurtful experience.

Ruth hears that the White Only signs are going to be more and more commonplace as they drive further south. Luckily, a kind man in a gas station sells Ruth’s father a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. The book lists all the places Ruth and her family can go to eat, sleep, and shop. The book makes it possible for Ruth’s trip to be a far more enjoyable experience, and it made her feel that she is part of a “one big family.”

For many African Americans, travelling was a trial that had to be endured. Then one man, Victor Green, decided to do what he could to help black travelers. He put together a list of places where blacks could go to have their car fixed, to have meal, or to spend the night. This picture book is a tribute to him, and to all the people who were not allowed eat or sleep where they wanted to. Through Ruth’s eyes we can see how painful and humiliating racism is. Through her eyes we can appreciate how much courage it took to be a black person in America in the years when blacks were treated as second class citizens.