Ruby Bridges (She Persisted) by Kekla Magoon, illustrated by Gillian Flint

Ruby Bridges (She Persisted) by Kekla Magoon, illustrated by Gillian Flint. Philomel Books, Penguin Random House, 2021. 9780593115879

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Paperback

Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book? Many elementary students are familiar with Ruby Bridges from Robert Coles’ picture book and the Disney movie, and this chapter book biography is very true to the narrative of those works.  Kekla Magoon first sets the stage by explaining the historical context of Ruby’s childhood in language that kids will understand; she describes what segregation and Jim Crow laws meant for Ruby’s family and makes clear just how significant her arrival at William Frantz Elementary School was.  She also describes the admission test process, the hesitance of her parents, and what Ruby experienced day in and out as she attended 1st grade, in ways that will provoke true empathy in readers.

This concise biography of Ruby Bridges by the award-winning Kekla Magoon will fill an important gap in many libraries.  What is noteworthy is the interpolation of Ruby’s own thoughts and perspective during the time: “I learned later that they were carrying guns,” she says of her federal marshal escorts.  Children will be very interested to hear these comments from Ruby herself, as well as some insights from her teacher Mrs. Henry.  Magoon also includes a concluding chapter about what happened to Ruby after 1st grade (including being named an honorary marshal in 2000 and meeting President Barack Obama).  The book closes with tips for readers on “How You Can Persist” like Ruby did, and a list of references for further study.  Black and white illustrations reminiscent of the original She Persisted picture books enhance the text, primarily depicting scenes between Ruby and her parents or her teacher.  

Anything you did not like about the book?  No

To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grades 2-4 seeking information for a report or wishing to learn the rest of Ruby Bridges’ story will enjoy it very much and find it valuable; it would also be an appropriate read aloud for 2nd or 3rd grade.  The She Persisted chapter books are a little easier to read, and a bit more approachable, than the Who Was series.  

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: October 20, 2021

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