September 02, 2010

September Errata

Goodness, happy September. For those of you off to classrooms again - may you have clean whiteboards, dust-less chalk, and long recesses.

For years, the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators has been a haven for writers and illustrators -- but with a seeming emphasis on writers. Illustration seems to be an even more solitary field than writing, and so it's kind of nice that this year the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Winners have come up with a mentoring blog for fledgling illustrators, to share around illustration tips, let them know who's hiring where, and to assist greater numbers of illustrators to break into the market. This project is fronted by John Deininger, Kimberly Gee, Ashley Mims, Andrea Offermann,Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and Eliza Wheeler. Check out the intelligent blog, including a nice little video from David Small, and pass it on.

At ALA this past summer, I heard about a book called Ruth and the Green Book. I got a bookmark or something about it, looked at it, and frowned. Green book? I thought. Kids: this is just another example of African American history that I knew nothing about, nor had I ever heard about in any history class...

Do you know what the Green Book was?

In a world of Jim Crow laws, it was the best-known travel guide for blacks in America in the 1950s. It listed not the best places for African Americans to stay, but usually the only places which accepted the business of African American travelers, period.

Imagine getting a flat tire in an unfamiliar town. It's 1951, and you're an African American with a family and kids, stuck somewhere in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, with nowhere to sleep, nowhere you can eat or safely buy another tire, and you just hope to God that stopping on the side of the road to sleep in the early dawn (many African Americans traveled the highways at night, as skin color is a lot harder to see in the dark) doesn't end up with you awakening to white-robed figuring yanking you out of the car and stringing you up on the nearest tree. Jim Crow insanity wasn't limited to the South -- there were places in such northerly states such as Ohio and Illinois and Oregon called Sundown Towns were African Americans had to clear out by sunset -- since the police wanted to be sure to clear out the riffraff before it got dark. In a world with those laws on the books, The Green Book would be basically invaluable to your survival.

And, had you ever heard of it?
Me, neither.
The Green Book was named one Victor H. Green, a Harlem postman who, while not writing the first Green Book is the one whose book was the best known. He issued the first book in 1936 just for New York. In the ensuing years, he expanded it to all fifty states, and in 1949 added Alaska, Mexico and Bermuda. By 1956 he'd added all of South America and the West Indies -- places where you'd think anyone would be welcome to travel, but also places where Americans were settling and vacationing - and carrying their prejudices with them.

That just sucks the joy out of the idea of a road trip, doesn't it?

The 1949 edition cost $0.75. On the cover it says, Travel is fatal to prejudice – Mark Twain. You can page through the whole thing and find beauty shops, restaurants, "tourist homes" - which was basically an early edition of couch surfing spots, auto repair places, and more.

Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Ramsey, is coming from Carolrhoda Books this November. Listen to the podcast with illustrator Floyd Cooper and find out a little more about the book.

And in the realm of Really Weird, I have to share this picture with you from the blog Field Day, which is a UK farming blog... Behold, the rhino-cow.

This cow was a little surprise for a farmer in the Hebei Province of China. It seems to be perfectly normal except for that little horn. At least it's not straight - if it were a unicorn horn, we'd have to butcher the poor sucker...

...and on that note...back to work.


jama said...

The Green Book is really something! Necessity is the mother of invention. Sadly so, in this case.

Sarah Stevenson said...

OK, that cow just freaks me out.

I knew about sundown towns, but I didn't know about the Green Book--wow. At the same time, what an incredible service, at that time, to create such a resource. But my mind is blown.

Colleen said...

The Green Book = Mind Blowing. So glad to see a kid's book on this (finally something new in the Civil Rights era sub genre!). I'd love even better to see a YA book about compiling the information for it - how did they collect all this data? Along with some fictional feedback from folks who used it, etc.

Tanita - this totally is a book you should write. (Just in case you were waiting for me to tell you what to do.... *smooch*)