Children's Books


Shannon Hitchcock

ISBN: 978-0-545-78230-2


Copyright Date: 2016

Rights Retained: Dramatic: motion picture, television & radio; commercial/merchandising

Price: $16.99

Pages: 224


When a segregated North Carolina town gets its first black teacher, two girls–one black, one white–come face-to-face with how prejudice affects their friendship.

Everything's changing for Sarah Beth Willis. After Robin's tragic accident, everyone seems different somehow. Days on the farm aren't the same, and the simple fun of riding a bike or playing outside can be scary. And there's talk in town about the new sixth-grade teacher at Shady Creek. Word is spreading quickly--Mrs. Smyre is like no other teacher anyone has ever seen around these parts. She's the first African American teacher. It's 1969, and while black folks and white folks are cordial, having a black teacher at an all-white school is a strange new happening. For Sarah Beth, there are so many unanswered questions. What is all this talk about Freedom Riders and school integration? Why can't she and Ruby become best friends? And who says school isn't for anybody who wants to learn--or teach? In a world filled with uncertainty, one very special teacher shows her young students and the adults in their lives that change invites unexpected possibilities. (page 42)



Shannon Hitchcock

Author of the January 5, 2016 Middle Grade historical for ages 8 – 12


Nominee for Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award

Nominee for Pennsylvainia’s Keystone to Reading Award

Alaska’s Battle of the Books for 3rd & 4th Grades

Nominee for the 2018 Sakura Medal Chapter Books Award

Montana Battle of the Books for 3rd & 4th Grades

Nominee for Iowa’s Children’s Choice Award

Featured in Scholastic’s Mother Daughter Book Club:

Check out the link for discussion questions, a recipe for peach cobbler, and a drawing to win ten copies!

Featured on CBC’s homepage/Hot Off the Press Reading List:

New and Forthcoming African-American Titles for Young Readers, 2015-2016:

Andrea Pinkney’s introduction starting @ 5:19

Being best friends has always been as easy as breathing for Ruby and Sarah. But with everyone talking about school integration and their grandparents telling them to keep their friendship secret, the two girls face challenges they’re not prepared for. Their friendship is about courage and forgiveness in the face of opposition and fear.

“A Mighty Girl” book for Tweens’ Summer 2018 Reading List:

Who says school isn’t for anybody who wants to learn — or teach? In addition to providing plenty of fodder for conversation about civil rights history and the power of a dedicated teacher, this book also sends a message about how change that initially seems scary or unsettling can actually provide unexpected opportunities.

“A Mighty Girl” book about Standing Up for Others:
Mrs. Smyre is able to help Sarah understand this strange world of Freedom Riders and family struggles — and to get the whole community thinking about things in a new way.

“A Mighty Girl” book about the Power of Friendship:
This tender story, and the touching friendship between Sarah and Ruby Lee, is also an excellent introduction to civil rights struggles.

“A Mighty Girl” top pick for children and teens about heroic Girls and Women of the Civil Rights Movement:

“A Mighty Girl” book celebrating diversity and acceptance:

This story exploring racial tensions at a key point during the Civil Rights Movement highlighted the new possibilities that emerge when we work together.

“A Mighty Girl” Read for teacher appreciation week/Honoring Educators:

This tender story, with its perfect balance of history and Southern charm, is sure to become a favorite.

“2016 Middle Grade Readers”

Featured in Scholastic’s Mother Daughter Book Club:

Featured on CBC’s homepage/Hot Off the Press Reading List

New and Forthcoming African-American Titles for Young Readers, 2015-2016:



Twelve-year-old Sarah Beth was in charge of watching her little sister Robin when a car hit the six-year old, and now everything is uncertain. Will Robin walk again? How can Sarah Beth admit her guilt when her family may blame her? Sarah Beth must go stay with her grandparents while her parents guide Robin through the healing process, and with the integration of her new school, life takes on even more challenging questions. This endearing story set in 1969 is reminiscent of the charming friendship seen in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Faith, Hope, and Ivy June (2009), but with a feel similar to that of the Little House books. As in The Ballad of Jessie Pearl (2013), Hitchcock deftly weaves her narrative through history to gently bring important past events to light. Excellently written, the novel’s characters avoid stereotyping and are well-developed, and Hitchcock perfectly captures Sarah Beth’s voice as she wrestles with big questions. The somber themes of race relations and personal guilt are handled sensitively and with a good dose of flour, courtesy of Sarah Beth’s grandmother, and hope for racial healing is offered. A heartening and important offering for younger readers— Melissa Moore

Publishers Weekly:

It is the summer of 1969, and things couldn’t seem worse to 12-year-old Sarah. Her six-year-old sister, Robin, has been seriously injured in a car accident that Sarah is certain was her fault (she had been reading while babysitting Robin), and Sarah called her best friend, Ruby Lee, the worst thing you can call a black person. Sarah’s inner struggles take place against the background of integration in a rural North Carolina community; Hitchcock (The Ballad of Jessie Pearl) depicts her guilt, anger, and grief with credibility and the important people in her life in sympathetic, fully dimensional fashion. The contrast between Ruby Lee and Sarah’s friendship and that of the girls’ grandmothers effectively reflects the differences in their generations’ approach to race relations; the uneasiness created by the arrival of the elementary school’s first black teacher, Mrs. Smyre, is also treated realistically. While Mrs. Smyre is a little too good to be true, an endnote explains the roots of the book are in the author’s connection to just such a teacher.

After a tragic accident leaves her younger sister Robin hospitalized, 12-year-old Sarah must move in with her grandparents. Miss Irene is Granny’s neighbor and friend, and her granddaughter Ruby Lee has been Sarah’s best friend since she can remember. The trouble is, Sarah is white and Ruby Lee is black—and it’s 1969 in North Carolina. The local school will be integrated this year, and the first black teacher has been hired. Tension is high in the tiny town of Shady Creek. Forced to leave her home and start over on her grandparents’ farm, Sarah must come to grips with her guilt about her sister, her anger and confusion about Ruby Lee, and the uncertainty of relationships among whites and blacks in the rural South. Balancing the heavier topics are home-style recipes, strong storytelling, and Southern charm, which will engage younger middle grade readers. The characters are well developed and the historical setting realistic. VERDICT: Tenderly told, this appealing story explores racial tensions during a key moment of the civil rights movement.—Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH

“RUBY LEE & ME will work well in book fairs and as curriculum material for our schools.” — Scholastic sales rep Charlie Young

A lovely and poignant novel on courage, overcoming fears, friendship, and love of family.