Riding to Washington (Tales of Young Americans)

by Gwenyth Swain (Author) David Geister (Illustrator)

Riding to Washington (Tales of Young Americans)
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Janie is not exactly sure why her daddy is riding a bus from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C. She knows why she has to go-to stay out of her mother's way, especially with the twins now teething. But Daddy wants to hear a man named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak and, to keep out of trouble, Janie is sent along.

Riding the bus with them is a mishmash of people, black and white, young and old. They seem very different from Janie. As the bus travels across cities and farm fields to its historic destination, Janie sees firsthand the injustices that many others are made to endure. She begins to realize that she's not so different from the other riders and that, as young as she is, her actions can affect change.

Though fiction, Riding to Washington is a very personal story for Gwenyth Swain as both her father and grandfather rode to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 1963 civil rights march on the nation's capital. Ms. Swain's other books include Chig and the Second Spread and I Wonder As I Wander. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Select format:

More books in the series - See All

School Library Journal

Gr 14Swain bases this story on her father's remembrances of attending the August 1963 March on Washington, DC. Fed up with Janie's impulsive behavior, Mama sends the girl on a bus trip with her father to hear Martin Luther King, Jr., speak at the Lincoln Memorial. Not many "black folks" live in Janie's part of Indianapolis, but she's seen TV news reports of "coloreds" being sprayed with fire hoses and chased by police dogs in the South. While boarding the bus, she meets the wife of one of her father's employees. Mrs. Taylor is an elegant black woman who wears a matching suit and "hat like Mrs. Kennedy." During the journey, the driver can't locate a restaurant that will serve a "mixed crowd." When they stop at a gas station, Mrs. Taylor decides to ignore the "No Coloreds" sign over the restroom door. Inspired by her determination, Janie accompanies the woman and helps teach the young attendant a quiet lesson in compassion. Listening to Dr. King speak, Janie realizes that his dream is important for everyone, not just African Americans. The text effectively describes Janie's experiences, and readers can easily imagine how they would respond in similar situations. The illustrations provide a strong sense of the period. The soft earth tones and rounded forms create a mood of safety and stability. This heartfelt tale provides an unusual and compelling perspective on a historical event. "Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA" Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Sleeping Bear Press
Publication date
December 20, 2007
Tales of Young Americans
BISAC categories
JUV016150 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - 20th Century
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
United States
20th century
Civil rights
King, Martin Luther
Washington (D.C.)
Civil rights demonstrations
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Was
Children, White
Bus travel
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2011 - 2012

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!