cover image The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

Susan E. Goodman, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3739-7

Goodman (It’s a Dog’s Life) explores an 1848 case filed against the city of Boston by the father of Sarah Roberts, an African-American girl who was expelled from her elementary school because it was “only for white children.” Ably paring down the story, Goodman explains that, though the court ruled against Roberts, the case sparked a public campaign that led to the 1855 desegregation of Boston schools. Returning to the metaphor of the book’s title, Goodman reflects that this case launched a march toward justice, “a long, twisting journey. Three steps forward, one step back. One step forward, three back,” that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision a century later. Endnotes include a time line, additional details about the major figures in the story, and information about the author’s approach (“One of Sarah’s living relatives... told me how Sarah was educated while awaiting her court date”). Lewis’s (Seeds of Freedom) light-dappled acrylic and watercolor paintings balance clear portraits with faded background images, illuminating the story’s emotional and historical heft. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)