I recently read and reviewed Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and wanted to follow that up with the picture book The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford.
Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is the first black child to attend an all white elementary school during the civil rights movement and of desegregation in New Orleans in 1960. The Story of Ruby Bridges recounts Ruby’s move from Mississippi to New Orleans at a very young age, their hard working family, and their faith in God. It explains that at the time black children and white children went to separate schools which was against the law. A judge ordered the schools to be desegregated and Ruby was one of the first chosen to make this happen.
Angry crowds gathered for her first day of school, pulled their own children out of class, and continued to do so for months. Ruby was all alone in school. Her teacher Miss Hurley recounts that Ruby was a wonderful child, eager to learn, but also lonely. The book ends with Ruby uttering a prayer among the crowd which was:
Please, God, try to forgive those people.
Because even if they say those bad things,
They don’t know what they’re doing.
So You could forgive them,
Just like You did those folks a long time ago
When they said terrible things about You.
There seemed to be a few discrepancies between Through My Eyes, written by Ruby Bridges herself and this one, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (who was her psychiatrist during this time). In Through My Eyes, it came across as Ruby being much more ignorant of what was happening. She didn’t know why she was going to a new school, she didn’t know why the crowds were there at all. She also drove to school with the federal marshals each day. In this book, she is shown as walking to school. I know, I know. It doesn’t much matter.
I liked the illustrations by George Ford with the exception of his rendering of Mrs Henry, Ruby’s teacher. She looks to be African-American but she’s really white. It’s very unclear in the book which she’s supposed to be and I think it’s important to note that she was a white teacher who cared very deeply for the education of Ruby, especially at a time when many others were unwilling to take the job.
Overall, this book was very informative and is an excellent resource for younger readers. Since writing my review of Through My Eyes I have rented the Disney movie Ruby Bridges and enjoyed it very much. I would recommend pairing both Through My Eyes and The Story of Ruby Bridges with the movie.
The Story of Ruby Bridges is part of my themed reading for the month of February which celebrates Black History Month. Join me this month as I explore books that celebrate the history of African-Americans.
Genre: Picture book, approx ages 9-12
Publisher: Scholastic. February 1, 2995
Hardcover, 32 pages. ISBN 0590572814
Source copy: Library
The Story of Ruby Bridges is available from your favorite independent bookstore, Powell’s, and Amazon.