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Ruby and Her Books

To hear Sharon's interview with Ruby Bridges on WWNO-FM radio, click here.

Ruby Bridges, photo by Jason Kruppa

Ruby Bridges loves books; really loves books. It’s what kept her going as a little girl. Never heard that name? Or maybe you have heard it somewhere but don’t exactly remember where? Well, New Orleanian Ruby Bridges was vaulted into fame more than 50 years ago when, as a tiny 6-year-old flanked by two burly federal marshals, she was escorted past howling mobs and walked into the William Franz Elementary School to become the first African American child to integrate New Orleans public schools.

In her own gentle way, she has been trying to bring communities together ever since. She sincerely believes if children of all backgrounds and ethnicities come together and play together, the world will be a better place. And, because books gave her so much joy as a lonely child in difficult circumstances, she wants to bring America’s children together around them.

Through her foundation she has been promoting children’s literature, speaking in schools across the country two or three times a week. But this week she’s home. And on Friday, with the help of New Orleans First Lady Cheryl Landrieu, Ruby Bridges is inviting everyone, young and old, to pack a picnic, bring a blanket and join her and Cheryl Landrieu on a beautiful St. Charles Avenuel awn and check out some family-friendly music. It’s part of the unique and free New Orleans Children’s Book Festival which begins on Friday and extends into Saturday. Friday evening’s events begin at 6:30 and will be over by 8. But in those 90 minutes on the lawn of the Latter Branch Library, families from across the city can come together to hear the talented youngsters of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra as they perform a concert of music inspired by children’s literature.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Ruby Bridges says. “And then on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is actually the Book Festival itself, we anticipate giving away from five to 10,000 books.”

If that were all, it would be quite extraordinary. But it’s not, because there’ll be exceptional storytellers, many reading from their own published childrens' books, along with puppet shows and face painting as well as all those thousands of free books.

NolaVie partnered with the festival for the New Orleans Children's Book Competition. The winners are:

Best New Orleans Children's Book: What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo, by Grace Millsaps and Ryan Murphy, illustrated by John Clark IV and Alyson Kilday

Best Illustrations: When I Look in the Mirror, by Kima Richard

Best Children's Poem: Land of No Can Do, by Carol Pulitzer

Honorable Mentions: Search for the Golden Heart, by Ed Chambers; Writing Our Stories, by STAIR Children

 

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]