Prather’s Pick: A timely picture book
This week’s picture book for children (and adults, too) is timely, indeed. “A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story” was written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan. The book was illustrated by Floyd Cooper, a Coretta Scott Award Winner.
This is a true story. Sharon Langley’s family lived in Baltimore when she was a little girl. By the time she was born, no matter the color of their skin, children could go to the same schools, libraries, restaurants, and movie theaters, but not to the amusement park.
Gwynn Oak Amusement Park was located near the Langley home. It had games, rides, treats, and cold drinks—even a carousel—and a rule that African Americans could not enter the park. It was because of segregation.
So one day people who were “fed up with segregation” made a plan to hold a protest at the amusement park on July 4, 1963. They held up banners and sang songs. The protest was peaceful. Some sat down and refused to move. Nearly three hundred protestors were arrested. Some paid fines. Others stayed in jail that night, but they planned another protest for July 7th. Some white children and their parents joined in.
Stories about the protests were reported in the newspapers and on television. Eventually the amusement park owners agreed to let everyone come into the park—no matter their skin color. So on August 28, 1963, when Gwynn Oak Amusement Park was open to all, Sharon Langley was eleven months old. She and her mother and father were the first African American family to walk into the park when it was open to all.
Sharon’s father put her on a carousel horse. The next day the newspapers had stories and pictures about Sharon’s ride on the carousel. Years later, the amusement park was destroyed by a storm, but the carousel survived. It was moved to the National Mall in Washington D.C. Sharon’s name was put on the horse’s saddle and on one of the horseshoes. There’s also a sign to remind everyone about the ride.
August 28, 1963 was also an important day because Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was at a huge protest in Washington—the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Readers will find pages of information related to the writing of “A Ride to Remember” at the back of the book, including “ A Note from Sharon Langley,” a picture of her and her father taken that day at the amusement park, and a picture of grown-up Sharon and the carousel horse. There’s more information about the book’s story, a timeline, and extensive bibliography of book and article resources.
This is a great book. The illustrations were done by using oil erasure on illustration board.
The book is published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. It costs $18.99 in hardcover.
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