Children’s Book Explores Friendship and Loss in Civil Rights Era


Voice & Viewpoint Newswire

Her new book for middle-school readers, Ernestine and Amanda: Goodbye. Hello…, the fifth in the Ernestine and Amanda Series, does just that. It not only shares a compelling story of two middle-class girls dealing with loss, hope, and friendship in the tumultuous Civil Rights era, but also highlights another strand in the multifaceted tapestry that tells of African Americans.

“Far too often the narratives about people of color are drawn within the lines of a ‘single story,’ as identified by the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. She points out how a single story can be dangerous in undermining the truth of a people and dominating perspective about them. In fact, the reality of any group can be grasped only through a rich variety of stories,” Belton says.

When their adventures begin, Ernestine and Amanda agree on only one thing: they aren’t going to be friends. Ernestine thinks Amanda is stuck-up. Amanda thinks Ernestine is too fat. But as the girls grow up, their lives become more and more intertwined, taking them through musical competitions, summer camp, school integration, family separation and first love.

In Goodbye. Hello… as Ernestine and Amanda enter the eighth grade, their best friends, Alicia and Clovis, decide to test the “waters of integration” by attending the formerly all-white Central Elementary School. Ernestine focuses on rebuilding her friendship with Clovis after his year away. Amanda’s increasing interest in boys reaches a height at a Halloween party both girls and their friends attend. Then, when tragedy strikes, the girls find once again that they have more in common than they thought.

Young readers of all races will not only see themselves reflected in the day-to-day struggles and triumphs of Ernestine and Amanda, they can also learn more about the Civil Rights era through notes at the end of the book and an accompanying website,

“Combines a sharply observed setting of middle class African-American life in the mid 1950’s with the kind of realistic friendship story children enjoy so much,” Booklist has written of the series. “Belton writes very well…not only beautifully capturing the voices of her characters but also bringing the two feuding girls to the brink of friendship in a believable, endearing fashion.”

The e-book publication of Ernestine and Amanda: Goodbye, Hello… by Amazon CreateSpace is accompanied by the ebook release of the first four books of the series, which were originally published by Simon and Schuster in hardback and paperback form.

“Ernestine and Amanda are the keepers of my childhood memories and dreams,” Belton has said. “Their voices echo the ones I heard while chasing lightning bugs and playing at twilight with the kids down the street. The events of their lives and the heroes they celebrate are the ones of our heritage.”

Born in West Virginia and educated at Howard and George Washington Universities, Sandra Belton had a career in teaching and later in educational publishing where she developed technology components. Her first children’s book, From Miss Ida’s Porch, published in 1993, quickly gained recognition from educators and critics. Since then she has published a dozen children’s books, including McKendree, Store-Bought Baby, and The Tallest Tree, as well as the Ernestine and Amanda Series. More about Ms. Belton can be found at

“The stories of Ernestine & Amanda are only one thread within the rich and vibrant African-American tapestry,” Belton says, “but their stories are absolutely one of the realities. In addition to telling about the joys and mishaps of growing up, the stories of these two girls tell of the individuals, families, homes, and communities that characterized hundreds of black communities across the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, communities determined to fight for a better and fairer America.”

Ms. Belton is available for speaking engagements, interviews and classroom visits.

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