Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch by Heidi Tyline King. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Young MaVynee Betsch loved swimming at the beach and listening to the music of the whooshing waves. But in the Jim Crow era, beaches were segregated, and each time MaVynee swam at a beach, she was reminded that African Americans were discriminated against.

One day, her great-grandfather decided to do something about the situation. He purchased a beachfront called American Beach, north of Jacksonville, Fla.: “an ocean paradise” where all people were welcome.

MaVynee loved to perform, and American Beach’s sandy shore became her stage. “For each performance, the wind whispered an endless melody of gull cries and laughter.” Years later, MaVynee followed her passion for music and became a famous opera singer. When her mother became ill, MaVynee returned to American Beach and discovered that it was neglected and unkempt, no longer made use of since the passing of the Civil Rights Act.

MaVynee left behind her opera career and became an environmental activist doing all she could to restore and protect American Beach. Fellow activists gathered with her, and eventually the president of the United States at the time, George W. Bush, signed a law protecting American Beach. Today American Beach is part of the National Park Service.

Complementing this true story, illustrator Ekua Holmes’s magnificently lush and lively illustrations capture the beauty of God’s creation and the passion of MaVynee Betsch. Though the environmentalist’s worldview espouses love for “Mother Nature’ and doesn’t acknowledge God as the Creator of the world, this book has much to teach Christian children about God’s grand creation, the destructive nature of discrimination, and the ways in which people joined in the causes of justice and environmental protection can make a lasting impact.

(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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