Friday, July 31, 2009

The Story of Ruby Bridges

The Story of Ruby Bridges, written by Robert Coles, tells the story of Ruby Bridges, one of the first black children to attend a white school. In 1960, a judge ordered four black girls to go to two white elementary schools. Three of the girls went to one school; Ruby was sent by herself to attend first grade at the William Frantz Elementary School, in New Orleans. Ruby was only six years old at the time.
The idea, of course, was to integrate the schools, putting black and white children together in the classrooms. But, even though she was attending a white school, and it was supposed to be integrated, Ruby was not just the only black girl in the school, she was the only child in the school! Parents of the white students in the neighborhood would not send their children to the school if Ruby was there. Instead, they stood outside of the school each morning and taunted Ruby as she entered the building, escorted by federal marshals.
Ruby came from a Christian family. Every morning on her way to school, she would stop and say a prayer for all the people who hated her. One morning, before entering the school, as her teacher watched out the window, Ruby stopped and faced the crowd. Her teacher couldn’t hear Ruby speaking, but she could see Ruby’s lips moving. When Ruby entered the classroom, her teacher said she was surprised to see her talking to the crowds. Ruby said, “I didn’t stop and talk with them.” Her teacher replied, “Ruby, I saw you talking. I saw your lips moving.” “I wasn’t talking,” said Ruby, “I was praying. I was praying for them.” From that day on, Ruby said her prayer twice every day, once before school and once after school. Here’s the prayer she prayed:
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.

Ruby didn’t have to spend the whole school year by herself. Later that year, two of the white boys in the neighborhood were sent to school by their mothers who were tired of their misbehaving with nothing to do. By the time Ruby entered the second grade, the angry crowds had given up their struggles to scare Ruby. Eventually, all the schools in New Orleans became desegregated.
The watercolor illustrations, by George Ford, done in muted colors, depict the emotions of the characters in the story in a realistic manner.
What I Like: I like biographies, particularly those written for children. This one is well-told, one that children of any color should be able to relate to.
What I Dislike: My only objection to the story is the lack of historical background for Ruby Bridges. After reading the book, it’s unclear to me how or why Ruby was chosen as one of only four white girls to attend all-white elementary schools. Also, why was she sent to this school all by herself? And, why weren’t any boys sent?
Overall Rating: The overall rating, though, is still very good as the story is well-written and portrays an important message about racism and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.
Age Appeal: 4-8.
Publisher Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004; ISBN: 0439598443; Paperback, $6.99.
Buy it Now at Amazon.com for $6.99.
Special Info: The main character of the story is Ruby Bridges, an African American.


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1 comment:

Kristina Seleshanko said...

My 5 yr. old and I love this book. I'd rate it Excellent.

It is, I think, a perfect introduction to the topic. It is enough for my daughter to know that some people object to others because of the color of their skin; she doesn't need more detail than that just now. The book does explain why no other children went to the school: their parents objected to Ruby's presence. The book also explains how that changed.

What I love most of all about this book is the focus on Ruby's faith. She did a beautiful job of praying for and loving those who persecuted her. Makes me cry every time!