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The Picture Book Buzz

A Ride To Remember: A Civil Rights Story - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

The civil rights movement is more than a few notable named and studied individuals. It's a societal uprising by blacks and whites, young and old against unfair and unjust, mean and arbitrary rules. Though many of the participants remain unknown and unsung, this Spring a couple of picture books are remedying this and bringing fascinating stories and people to light.

I wish I could say that our society is better now. But the recent experiences of very close and dear friends says otherwise. Unequitable treatment is widespread and wide-reaching.

This week's #PPBF choice, written by one of the youngest participants on August 28, 1963, is a story that most kids can relate to. A story of fearful adults preventing children from having fun on a carousel. Though gentle and compassionate in its narrative, the underlying issues and social strife are addressed and poignantly presented. This is definitely a ride worth remembering and a community effort worth celebrating. Hopefully, books like this, presented with the heart and honesty of a child, can help make a difference - one reader at a time.

A Ride To Remember: A Civil Rights Story

Authors: Sharon Langley & Amy Nathan

Illustrator: Floyd Cooper

Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers (2020)

Ages: 6-9



Civil rights, empowerment, community, and equality.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful Civil Rights statement

A Ride to Remember tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.

Opening Lines:

I love carousels.

The horses come in so many colors - black, white, brown, gray j, a honey shade of tan, sunny yellow, fire engine red, or even a soft baby blue. But no matter their colors, the horses go around at the same speed as they circle round and round, They start together. They finish together, too. Nobody first and nobody last. Everyone is equal when you ride a carousel.

What I LOVED about this book:

This opening page encapsulates the entirety of the book and the fight for civil rights into one image. I've been in awe since I read the book. Then getting to interview these remarkably talented authors and hear how they worked to create this page and then carry this theme/metaphor throughout the book, made it even more special to me as I reread it for the review.

Text © Sharon Langley & Amy Nathan, 2020 . Image © Floyd Cooper, 2020.

The decision to write this story of discrimination and civil rights from the viewpoint of a young child having a conversation with her parents makes it easily accessible and relevant to children today. Most of whom would agree that the Golden Rule and fairness means that the color of one's skin should not prevent a child's ride on a carousel.

Text © Sharon Langley & Amy Nathan, 2020 . Image © Floyd Cooper, 2020.

Using a gentle and kind conversational tone, the child and her parents discuss the discrimination, months of protests by the community - whites and blacks, arrests of young and old, and the media's role in raising awareness of this ridiculous and unfair rule of the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. Notably, the book highlights other children, black and white, who participated in the protests and the back matter shows how they continued to fight for fairness as adults.

Sharon & Amy use the carousel as a symbol of the larger, nation-wide civil rights movement. Tying together Sharon's historic ride as the first African American child on the very day that Dr. Martin Luther King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech, with the fact that this carousel now sits on the National Mall, very close to the Lincoln Memorial where he spoke.

Text © Sharon Langley & Amy Nathan, 2020 . Image © Floyd Cooper, 2020.

Floyd Cooper’s choice of sepia tones, with splashes of color, have the feel of textured, vintage photographs taken from a child's perspective. It is still unbelievable to me that he created these by erasing the paint. A detailed back matter includes a detailed note from Sharon, bibliography, timeline, and additional resources. Overall it is an excellent book for children, and teachers, on equality and the power of community; and how each of us can change the world.


- have you ever experienced or witnessed discrimination? How could you try to change the rule?

- make your own carousel horse (or other animal) ( or model paper-plate carousel (; and

- read about other lesser known people who fought for equality (such as - Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, Illustrated by E. B. Lewis; Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh; Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; or Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito.)

If you missed the interview of Floy Cooper on Monday, find it (here) or the interview with Sharon Langley & Amy Nathan on Wednesday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

If you are in the area(s), stop by for the book launches of A Ride to Remember:

Saturday, January 11, 2020:

in Los Angeles

- Book reading & signing by Sharon Langley, Children's Book World @ 2:30 pm.


in New York

- Book reading by Amy Nathan, Bank Street Bookstore, NYC @ 10:30 am, plus art demonstration by Floyd Cooper.

Saturday, January 18, 2020, 9 am to 11 am @ Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore

Teacher Professional Development: MLK - A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story - "Educators can observe the MLK Day weekend with a Civil Rights Workshop for their young learners (K-5). Educators will learn about the desegregation of Gwynn Oaks Amusement Park through the new picture book, A Ride to Remember. The integration of the park occurred the same day as the March on Washington. Authors Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan will share their personal experiences of the amusement park protest and lessons connected with the children’s book. A book signing will followed. RSVP HERE."

Sunday, January 19, 2020, 3 pm @ Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore

Panel Discussion with Sharon Langley, Amy Nathan, Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead and Sherrell Savage.

Monday, January 20, 2020, 11 am to 4 pm @ Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore

Book readings, mural workshop, and more with Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan.

"Stop by A Ride To Remember Story Hour and Mural Art Project to explore the story of the desegregation of a local amusement park and carousel with authors Sharon Langley, the first African American child to integrate the park and Amy Nathan. Participate in telling your own personal memories fighing social injustices at A Ride to Remember Oral History Video booth."

Special $5 admission (Children under 6 are free). Tickets here.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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