By Sarafina Wright | The Washington Informer | Word In Black
(TWI/WIB) – Civil Rights legend Ruby Bridges will release a children’s picture book later this year titled “I Am Ruby Bridges.”
For the first time, Bridges will share her story from the perspective of her six-year-old self, providing an intimate look through a child’s lens at her experiences and the role she played in the Civil Rights Movement.
At the tender age of 6, Bridges became the first Black student to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana.
Based on these pivotal events in 1960, Bridges embraces her role in the movement and the meaning of her name by using the picture book to build a bridge between all people and pave the path for future generations.
A glossary in the back will help children learn the definitions of keywords throughout the book.
“’I Am Ruby Bridges’ is my most personal book yet,” Bridges said. “It’s not just about my experience integrating schools. It’s also about the innocent ways that a child sees the world. Writing as my six-year-old self, reminded me how differently kids interpret things than adults do.”
“Children are much better at finding humor in everything, and even in times of great challenge, that’s what this book really does. It allows young kids to learn history in a fun way, which is something that I’m very passionate about,” she said.
Bridges’ story of courage comes to life with vivid images created by NAACP-nominated artist Nikkolas Smith, who illustrates the book.
Widely celebrated for his focus on “Artivism,” Smith creates art that sparks important conversations around social justice in today’s world, Bridges said.
“Nikkolas Smith is the perfect illustrator for this book. He’s so creative and has the same limitless imagination as a child. Working with him has been a terrific match. It’s like he plucked images straight out of my head and put them on the page. His art is so real and it comes from the heart. I know kids are really going to respond to it,” Bridges added.
Smith said he, as a Black child growing up in the South and after seeing Norman Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting on the wall, considers it is an immense honor to now have the opportunity to illustrate the picture book about the civil rights icon.
“I was always one of the few Black faces in my elementary school and I knew that Ms. Ruby was a huge reason why there was any progress at all,” Smith said. “It is such an honor to be a part of this project. She is an American hero and has been a lifelong [hero] of mine.”
“It was a surreal moment at the start of this project, being able to talk with Ms. Ruby and get an understanding of that time in her life through her six-year-old eyes. Both being from the South, we connected on many topics from Louisiana grandmas to racial tension in the search for justice and equality,” he said.
Two additional picture books written by Bridges, “Dear Ruby Bridges: Letters from Kids Speaking up for a Better World” and “A Talk with My Teacher,” will be published in future seasons by Scholastic.
“It has been 22 years since we published Ruby’s landmark book, ‘Through My Eyes.’ Now, Ruby is recounting her momentous story, for the first time ever, from her point of view as a child,” said Liza Baker, vice president and publisher of Scholastic imprint Orchard Book.
“Nikkolas Smith captures Ruby’s story with tenderness and poignancy. This marks the continuation of a publishing partnership between Ruby Bridges and Scholastic that will endure for years to come,” she said.
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Support for this Sacramento OBSERVER article was provided to Word In Black (WIB) by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. WIB is a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media that includes print and digital partners.