November 17, 2017

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The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman | SLJ Review

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redstarGoodman, Susan E. The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial. illus. by E.B. Lewis. 40p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802737397.The First Step by Susan E Goodman

Gr 2-4 –More than a century before Brown v. Board of Education, there was Roberts v. City of Boston; this beautifully illustrated picture book sheds light on this lesser-known case. Benjamin and Adeline Roberts enrolled their four-year-old in the closest neighborhood school. Sarah attended, until officials noticed and sent a police escort: in 1847, Boston mandated separate schools for African Americans. An extensive note differentiates facts from Goodman’s speculation about what happened. Though Goodman covers weighty matters, such as the specifics of the trial, its unhappy outcome, and a longer view of segregation, her compelling story strives to help children identify with the unfair treatment. Before suing, Sarah’s parents tried to envision their daughter’s journey to the distant school, “crossing one neighborhood after another…. for a school that never taught subjects like history or drawing.” Lewis’s affecting gouache and watercolor paintings interpret both the solidity and fragility inherent in this story. The courthouse’s classical columns and the school’s brick facades contrast with the child’s vulnerable posture. Sepia backgrounds suggest a historical lens. The metaphor of the “march toward justice” is accompanied by illustrations in the shape of footprints. The page with the phrase “one step forward” depicts Lincoln at Gettysburg; “three back” portrays the gun at Lincoln’s head, the Ku Klux Klan, and labeled water fountains. The book concludes with the image of Linda Brown (the young girl at the center of Brown v. Board of Education) flanked by Supreme Court judges. VERDICT An important exploration of the struggle for equality and education in this country.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2016 issue.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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