Brimner, Larry Dane. “Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961.” Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, An Imprint of Highlights, 2017.
Day by day, “Twelve Days in May” takes readers through the events of the first of the Freedom Rides in 1961. Straight-forward and accurate, this account is perfect for middle school students studying civil rights. It hits just the right note to portray just how far some would go to stop integration in the deep south; it doesn’t pull any punches while remaining appropriate for students as young as upper elementary. The size and spacing of the text makes a dense topic accessible and not too daunting, and the organization by sequence makes it easy to absorb the events and really helps the reader feel the growing danger experienced by the Freedom Riders. It also helps all of us who did not live in that era understand the day-to-day real threat of violence that was endured by African-Americans living in the southern United States during Jim Crow.
“Twelve Days in May” is a must-have for upper elementary, middle school, and high school libraries. Students and teachers will make good use of it for both general knowledge and research.
Dewey: 323.1196 Interest Level: Grades 5 and up
Reviews and Awards: Booklist starred; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books; Horn Book Guide; Horn Book Magazine; Kirkus Reviews; Publishers Weekly; Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal; School Library Connection; School Library Journal starred; Voice of Youth Advocates (YOYA) starred.
Older readers might like: “The Freedom Riders: Civil Rights Activists Fighting Segregation” by Kate Shoup (Peaceful Protesters series).
Younger readers might like: “Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson (illus. Frank Morrison).
Fiction pairing: “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” by Christopher Paul Curtis.
On the Web: PBS American Experience on The Freedom Riders at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomriders/
DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) At https://dp.la/search?q=freedom+riders find primary sources like photographs, newspaper articles, FBI reports, and a news clip featuring John Patterson from his term as governor of Alabama in 1961. This clip can be contrasted with a 2011 interview with this same governor in which he reflects upon that time in the materials on the American Experience website.
Library of Congress Primary Source Sets: https://www.loc.gov/search?new=true&q=Freedom+Riders; a primary source set on segregation and Jim Crow.