Introduce Young Readers to the Green Book with Ruth and the Green Book

By Libby Stille, Publicist

Last night, Green Book won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Picture at the Oscars. The movie’s title comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book travel guides that were printed to help black people travel safely during the Jim Crow era. They highlighted places to stay, eat, and fuel up during an era when institutionalized racism at hotels, restaurants, and gas stations was standard.

Ruth and the Green Book

The Negro Motorist Green Book was also the inspiration for Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s Ruth and the Green Book. Co-written by Gwen Strauss and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Ruth and the Green Book follows Ruth and her family as they take a trip in their new car.

In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But Ruth soon finds out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people.

Spread from Ruth and the Green Book

Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook—and the kindness of strangers—Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.

Green Book teaching resources

  • This Smithsonian Magazine article gives more background on The Green Book and includes quotes from Ruth and the Green Book co-author Calvin Alexander Ramsey.
  • Watch Calvin introduce Ruth and the Green Book at the Bank Street Bookstore in this video.
  • Read the Bard College at Simon’s Rock student interview with Calvin in which he discusses writing for children, the Ruth and the Green Book musical, and more.
  • Find free downloadable discussion questions, a Q&A with Calvin, a fact sheet about The Green Book, and more on Lerner’s website.

Green Book on PBS Newshour

P.S. – For more on this story, check out this PBS Newshour from November 23.

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