Day 15: Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Calvin Alexander Ramseyis a man of numerous talents. Not only does he write award winning picture books for children, he is a photographer, a folk art painter, and a playwright.  His plays have won awards as they traveled across the country to Washington, D.C., Atlanta; Omaha, Nebraska; San Francisco; and Alaska. That schedule surely agrees with Calvin because he has called many cities home: Martha’s Vineyard; New York City; Santa Monica, California; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix and St. John. Now he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

His first picture book, Ruth and the Green Book tells the story of an African American family as they travel across a “Jim Crow” United States.

Today, the 15th day of our fifth annual 28 Days Later campaign, we’re honoring Calvin Alexander Ramsey for his writing successes and contributions to the world of children’s publishing.

The Journey

My journey to publishing came by way of playwriting. Later the need to publish was inspired by my desire to reach a younger public. I wanted to find a creative, engaging way to share some of the fascinating stories of Black History with the youth of the 21st century.

The Inspiration

I am inspired by the work of Floyd Cooper, Shadra Strickland, Kadir Nelson, Evelyn Coleman, and Andrea Davis Pickney. All of these writers and illustrators bring a depth of power to a story  that elevates the art of children’s book literature.

The Back Story

My projects seem to fall on me. Much of my work is informed by my love of history, art, and the art of storytelling. I have spent many hours in the archives and special collections  of academic libraries immersing myself before starting a project.

The Buzz

ALA Notable Book Award

Jane Addams Peace Award for Children’s Literature

Blue Bonnet Master List

Powell’s Bookstore Staff Choice

Busboys and Poets Bookstore Staff Choice

School Library Journal (Star Reviewed).

“This story touches on a little-known moment in American history with elegance, compassion and humanity.” —Kirkus Reviews

Center for Puppetry ARTS –  Atlanta, GA 

Adapted and Directed by Jon Ludwig

Based on the book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey,
with illustrations by Floyd Cooper
Produced by special arrangement with Lerner Publishing Group

Feb 7 – 26, 2012

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chronicling a relatively-unknown chapter in Civil Rights history, Ruth and the Green Book follows an African American family as they travel from Chicago to Alabama in the Jim Crow South of the 1950s. After being turned away from hotels, gas stations and restaurants, 8-year-old Ruth and her parents are introduced to “The Green Book,” a travel guide for black motorists conceived as a response to the humiliation and violence experienced by African Americans while traveling. Using an innovative combination of puppetry and animated projections that are inspired by the book’s evocative illustrations, this collaboration between Artistic Director Jon Ludwig and author Calvin Alexander Ramsey celebrates this great guidebook that  helped Ruth’s family, like many others, find safe routes to welcoming places and people. As part of the Teen & Adult performance series, Ruth and the Green Book is

The State of the Industry

Certainly children’s literature has taken great leaps in the past tewnty years and yet there is still an under representation of people of color writing and illustrating children’s books. I would like to hear more of their voices.

Find out more about Calvin Alexander Ramsey at

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