Scholastic announces new picture book, “I Am Ruby Bridges” by American Civil Rights icon

Scholastic has announced the publication of I Am Ruby Bridges, a beautiful and momentous new picture book written by American Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges and illustrated by #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning artist, Nikkolas Smith.

I Am Ruby Bridges - Cover

On sale from 6th September 2022, this poetic reflection marks the first time that Bridges shares her powerful and trailblazing story from the perspective of her six-year-old self – providing a personal and intimate look through a child’s lens at an experience that changed the face of history and the trajectory of the Civil Rights movement.

When Bridges was just six years old, she became the first Black student to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary school in Louisiana. Based on these pivotal events that happened in 1960, I Am Ruby Bridges offers hope and confidence to all children, and reminds them that they, too, can be instruments of change and make the world a better place. 

“Bridges is one of the most important figures in Black history, and this new book introduces her landmark story to young readers in a powerful new way,” say Scholastic. “Embracing the meaning of her name, Bridges reflects with heart on the way she bravely stood proud and tall to help build a bridge between all people and pave the path for future generations. A glossary in the back will help kids learn the definitions of key words throughout the book.”

Ruby Bridges, author and activist
Ruby Bridges, author and activist

I Am Ruby Bridges is my most personal book yet,” said Ruby Bridges. “It’s not just about my experience integrating schools. It’s also about the innocent ways that a child sees the world. Writing as my six-year-old self reminded me how differently kids interpret things than adults do. Children are much better at finding humor in everything, and even in times of great challenge, that’s what this book really does. It allows young kids to learn history in a fun way, which is something that I’m very passionate about.”

Bridges’ story of innocence and courage is brought to life by NAACP-nominated artist Nikkolas Smith through stunning illustrations. Widely celebrated for his focus on “Artivism,” Smith creates captivating art that sparks important conversations around social justice in today’s world and inspires meaningful change.

“Nikkolas Smith is the perfect illustrator for this book,” shared Bridges. “He’s so creative and has the same limitless imagination as a child. Working with him has been a terrific match. It’s like he plucked images straight out of my head and put them on the page. His art is so real, and it comes from the heart. I know kids are really going to respond to it.”

Smith added: “As a Black child growing up in the South and seeing Norman Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting on the wall, it is an immense honour to now have the opportunity to illustrate Ms. Ruby’s picture book.

“This was an assignment I did not take lightly,” he added. “I was always one of the few Black faces in my elementary school, and I knew that Ms. Ruby was a huge reason why there was any progress at all. It is such an honour to be a part of this project. She is an American hero, and has been a lifelong icon of mine. It was a surreal moment at the start of this project, being able to talk with Ms. Ruby and get an understanding of that iconic time in her life through her six-year-old eyes. Both being from the South, we connected on many topics from Louisiana grandmas to racial tension in this search for justice and equality.”

“I can think of no greater gift to readers today than this new story told as never before by Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges,” noted Liza Baker, VP and Publisher of Scholastic imprint Orchard Books. “We are thrilled to announce this is the first of three new picture books that will join her esteemed and bestselling backlist at Scholastic.

“It has been 22 years since we published Ruby’s landmark book, Through My Eyes,” she added – a title that’s being re-released in September. “Now Ruby is recounting her momentous story, for the first time ever, from her point of view as a child. Nikkolas Smith captures Ruby’s story with tenderness and poignancy. This marks the continuation of a publishing partnership between Ruby Bridges and Scholastic that will endure for years to come.”

Additional Scholastic books about the extraordinary life of Ruby Bridges include Through My Eyes, Bridges’ critically acclaimed and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winning autobiography, Scholastic Reader title Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges, and picture book The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford.

Two additional picture books written by Bridges – Dear Ruby Bridges: Letters from Kids Speaking up for a Better World and A Talk with My Teacher – will be published in future seasons.

Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With," depicting Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to attend an all white elementary school in the South.
Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With,” depicting Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to attend an all white elementary school in the South.

Ruby Bridges is a Civil Rights activist who, at the age of six, was the first Black student to integrate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. She was born in Mississippi in 1954, the same year the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision ordering the integration of public schools. Her family later moved to New Orleans, where on November 14, 1960, Bridges began attending William Frantz Elementary School, single-handedly initiating the desegregation of public education in New Orleans. Her walk to the front door of the school was immortalised in Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With, in Robert Coles’ book The Story of Ruby Bridges, and in the Disney movie Ruby Bridges (which, it appears, is not currently available as a Region 2 DVD release). 

She established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to provide leadership training programs that inspire youth and community leaders to embrace and value the richness of diversity. Bridges is the recipient of numerous awards, including the NAACP Martin Luther King Award, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and honorary doctorate degrees from Connecticut College, College of New Rochelle, Columbia University Teachers College, and Tulane University. Bridges is also the author of This Is Your Time.

Nikkolas Smith is a Houston, Texas-born Artivist, picture book author, and Hollywood film illustrator. He is the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestselling picture book The 1619 Project: Born on the Water written by Nikole Hannah-Jonesand Renée Watson.

He is also the author/illustrator of The Golden Girls of Rio, nominated for an NAACP Image Award, My Hair Is Poofy And That’s Okay, and World Cup Women. Many of his viral, globally shared and published sketches are included in his book Sunday Sketch: The Art of Nikkolas.

Nikkolas, who live in Los Angeles, California, also speaks on his Artivism at conferences, workplaces, and schools around the world, and leads workshops in digital painting, character, and movie poster design.

I Am Ruby Bridges is available in September (Amazon UK Affiliate Link) | ISBN 978-1338753882

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