Book review of The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles Reviewed by: Allison Rubin

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Book Review: The Story of Ruby Bridge

Author: Robert Coles

Illustrator: George Ford

Available for $5.25 at Barnes & Noble

Reviewed by: Allison Rubin

 

The Story of Ruby Bridges is a historical non-fiction children’s picture book that tells the story of a brave little girl during her journey with desegregation in schools.  This book was written in 2000 by Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Coles and Scott King Award illustrator- George Ford.  This story takes place in 1960 in New Orleans, when whites and African Americans were segregated in schools even though it was against the law.  During this time the court decided that four African American students would be attending white schools, and Ruby was one of them.  She ended up at William Franz Elementary with a white teacher, Ms. Henry, in a classroom with no other students.  She had to be escorted by US Marshals to class through crowds of protesters and separated from all other students.  The story goes through her perseverance as she graduated elementary school and went on to graduate high school.

The illustrations through out the book depict the racial segregation and loneliness that Ruby felt through out the story.  Ruby is shown in the story being well dressed with a bow in her hair and usually a smiling face, there is a sense of innocence and strength in this little girl.  The illustrations enhance the text for readers by allowing them to visualize the rage in the protesters as well as seeing how unfair it is to a little innocent child as she walks past these crowds every day.  It is important to remember her innocence as she did not do anything to these people except for having different color skin then the protesters.  During the 1960s racism, the civil rights movement, and racial tensions were at an all time high, these pictures help children visualize these events in kid friendly manner (controlling the view of protesters and the signs they carried for young students).  The illustrations also show the loneliness of Ruby with the empty desks around here in school and as a reader it makes you feel sad for Ruby.  The pictures evoke feelings and help readers put themselves in Ruby’s shoes and visualize her journey.

This book tells a story that is wonderful to share with students when teaching civil right movement history.  It discusses great historical topics such as civil rights, segregation, and racism.  It is important to share with students the struggles that African Americans went through in a child’s perspective.  This makes it relatable to students through out the elementary level.  It will spark many discussions between students putting them selves in Ruby’s shoes of how she must have felt during this time.  The author did a wonderful job introducing the historical events of the 1960s in a kid friendly story.  The author’s style of writing is told in a way where it introduces a factual event and then Ruby explains the situation in her words as a first grader.  It also told the perspective of Ruby’s white teacher of the events occurring.  Introducing the different perspectives made the story well rounded and built depth in the feeling and understanding of the events happening during the 1960s.  This is a great read that makes you feel for Ruby and her family.  It also brings joy to the reader as you learn about her accomplishments and her positive efforts for desegregation in New Orleans schools.

Over all the theme of this historical story is courage and perseverance.  Ruby was a child selected to go through a tough journey of racism, loneliness, and battling segregation.  Her journey took courage to walk through the protesters every day, even though it was scary and caused fear in her family, she still went to school every day. It teaches children that they too can make a difference with perseverance and fighting for what they believe in.  I feel that this is a very important theme to present to students with a factual story about a student their age.  It is a wonderful story that opens up opportunities to discuss with students the different aspects and successes of desegregation in schools.  This conversation can relate to today as segregation can still exist, which will lead to a discussion about what we can currently do to help desegregation in schools.  The Story of Ruby Bridges is an encouraging story for young students to read to both learn about the historical events in 1960 and see how one student can make a difference.

 

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