Ride to Remember is a compelling civil rights story

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Ride to RememberRIDE TO REMEMBER: A CIVIL RIGHTS STORY, by Sharon LangleyAmy Nathan, Floyd Cooper, Harry N. Abrams, Jan. 7, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 6-9)

There are hundreds more civil rights stories for every one that is told. And as more of those stories are told on a bigger stage, the greater the understanding of injustices becomes. Ride to Remember is one such story.

On August 28, 1963, 11-month-old Sharon Langley rode the carousel at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore. It’s something that kids do every day. What sets this event apart is the color of Sharon’s skin. Sharon and her parents were the first African-American family to walk into Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, which had been whites-only since it opened in 1894.

The 1960s was a time of change. People in Baltimore were tired of segregation, and through protests, they were able to desegregate schools, libraries, restaurants and some movie theaters.

But the amusement park wouldn’t budge. So, on July 4, 1963, hundreds of people — black and white, young and old — took part in one of the biggest protests Baltimore had ever seen. Just under 300 people were arrested that day, but that didn’t stop people from gathering again two days later. News coverage of the protests prompted such a big response, the park eventually had to relent.

Sharon’s ride on the carousel was captured by photographers and splashed across newspapers the following day. Sharon’s ride coincided with Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Her ride helped show that King’s dream was starting to come true.

You don’t know what you don’t know. When Sharon rode the carousel for the first time, she knew nothing different. She was too young to remember “before,” so it fell to her parents to explain the importance of her photo in the newspaper.

A Ride to Remember helps parents explain “before” to children of all races. The idea of treating someone differently because of their color (or gender) is so foreign to my almost-6-year-old that she actually thought I was making up stories the first few times we discussed inequality. I love the backmatter at the end of A Ride to Remember. The included photographs help children put an actual face with a name. It makes things infinitely more real.

A Ride to Remember is both gentle and immediate. It’s bold without being in-your-face and relatable to kids from the first page:

I love carousels. The horses come in so many colors… But no matter their colors, the horses all go at the same speed as they circle round and round. They start together. They finish together, too. Nobody is first and nobody is last. Everyone is equal when you ride a carousel.”

A Ride to Remember is an important read for children, and should at least be checked out from the library if not purchased for the home.

© 2020, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

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About Author

Jessica Harrison is the main reviewer behind Cracking the Cover. Prior to creating Cracking the Cover, Jessica worked as the in-house book critic for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Jessica also worked as a copy editor and general features writer for the paper. Following that, Jessica spent two years with an international company as a social media specialist. She is currently a freelance writer/editor. She is passionate about reading and giving people the tools to make informed decisions in their own book choices.

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