In the 50th anniversary year of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Virginia's law forbidding interracial marriages, Champaign-Urbana's own acclaimed young-adult author Patricia Hruby Powell launches her groundbreaking book: "Loving vs. Virginia."
In this 2017 release from Chronicle Books, Hruby Powell and illustrator Shadra Strickland introduce their readers to Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter: two young people who live in rural Virginia in the 1960s.
Indeed, not only are their readers introduced to Richard and Millie, but they are invited straight into the hearts and minds of this tender and controversial couple.
Hruby Powell uses free verse in alternating voices to reveal this American love story from first notice to secret marriage, imprisonment, banishment and vindication.
Her verse seems to flow effortlessly onto the page with skill so fine that reading "Loving vs. Virginia" brought to mind Karen Hesse's Newbery Award Winning "Out of the Dust."
Interspersed through this documentary novel are black backgrounded pieces of history from the 1960s. There are photographs of "separate but equal" school rooms and of a lunch counter sit-in, along with newspaper excerpts, laws and quotes from that era.
The black fact pages remind those of us old enough to remember, and introduce those of us too young to recall, of the struggle for racial justice that seems so long ago, but that lingers today and perhaps threatens repetition.
Strickland, whose illustrations have won several awards, including a Coretta Scott King and Ezra Jack Keats, chose a style of artwork from the 1960s known as visual journalism. Her drawings use a loose, informal style and complement Hruby Powell's verse both texturally and authentically.
"Loving vs. Virginia" was a treat I promised myself each evening for the duration of its reading. This is a true story I'd known something about before, but now through this work, I've experienced it in a more visceral way.
Hruby Powell and Strickland bring the Loving's struggle and victory to life.
Ruth Siburt is the author of more than a dozen children's books in the educational field.