This is a blog specifically created for the purposes of my Literature for Children and Young Adults class at Texas Woman's University. Coming soon will be reviews of titles ranging from children's fiction to poetry to young adult novels. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Through My Eyes

Bridges, Ruby. 1999. Through My Eyes. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0590189239.

Through My Eyes is the first-hand account of Ruby Bridges who, as a six-year-old girl was the first African-American to go to a public elementary school. Her tale takes place in New Orleans in the fall of 1960 when schools were mandated to integrate. As she arrived at her new school, escorted by U.S. marshals, she thought that the school was a mystical, important place: “It must be college, I thought to myself.” But she was also greeted by violently angry crowds of protestors—which only made her more confused. “I thought maybe it was Mardi Gras…” Ruby’s teacher, Ms. Henry, was a young white woman from Boston, who did her best to enforce the integration despite the fact that the school’s attendance slowly whittled down to only three children and then finally, Ruby alone. In the end, the white families became braver and the children slowly began coming back to school. Ms. Henry moved away over the summer after that first year because she was pregnant and her husband wanted to raise their child in Boston, but Ms. Henry never forgot little Ruby and forever kept a picture of her in her bureau. They were reunited in 1995.

The truths in this “true” book are very basic to humanity: justice, love, devotion, perseverance and ultimately, survival and success. The story itself is captivating and engaging but this is even further propelled along by its simplicity of language, short digestible sections and honest candor. While several biographies have been written about Ruby, there is just no substitution for the “horses mouth.” No one knows this more than a child. Rather than read this account in a history book, Ruby’s own words make all the difference. The photographs, though in black and white, are large, clear and present the truth without being scary (even the images of protestors). Also, captions line the bottoms of most pages with quotes from Ms. Henry herself as well as other prominent figures. says, “A personal, deeply moving historical documentary about a staggeringly courageous little girl at the center of events that already seem unbelievable..”

Publisher’s Weekly says “Bridges's words, recalling a child's innocence and trust, are more vivid than even the best of the photos. Like poetry or prayer, they melt the heart.”

Library Journal says, "The narrative draws a distinct contrast between the innocence of this six-year-old child who thought that "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate" was a jump-rope chant and the jeers of the angry crowd outside her school carrying a black doll in a coffin. A powerful personal narrative that every collection will want to own."

Parent's Choice says, "Powerful and powerfully moving."

Through My Eyes would be a wonderful book to use to explore topics such as racism in schools, the effect of fear, endurance and survival. It could also facilitate programs where children could be invited to recount their own personal experiences with these topics (and other difficult subjects). Perhaps they’ll think, “If little Ruby could do it (and dear Ms. Henry) then so can I.”

Reviewed by Joelie Key-Tissot 10/21/06


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