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Some brave girls


Staff member
Mar 22, 2024
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Small Shoes, Great Strides: How Three Brave Girls Opened Doors to School Equality by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Alex Bostic (Carolrhoda, 40 pages, grades 2-5). Ten minutes before Ruby Bridges entered William Frantz Elementary School on November 14, 1960, three other six-year-old girls, Leona Tate, Tessie Provost, and Gail Etienne, started school across town at McDonogh 19 Public School. Escorted by U. S. Marshals, the girls were in a first-grade class taught by Miss Florence Meyers. Although there were other white students at school that day, they quickly left, leaving the girls as the only three students in the building for the rest of the year.

The girls were heroic, as were their parents, Miss Meyers, and the marshals, who helped them find the courage to keep going and made their first-grade year as normal as possible. Second grade proved a bit easier; after Christmas, about twenty-five new students arrived, and the kids were allowed to go outside for recess. Unfortunately, the girls were sent to a different school the following year, where they experienced bullying, racism, and occasional physical violence from students and even some of the teachers. In the end, the girls “survived and helped change our nation.”

This fascinating book will appeal to kids who are familiar with Ruby Bridges’s story. Leona, Tessie, and Gail were all interviewed for the book, as was one of the surviving U.S. Marshals. The text is quite long, and there’s a ton of back matter: more about school desegregation in New Orleans and Norman Rockwell’s painting based on it, what happened to the three girls when they grew up (two opted for all-Black schools in sixth grade, but all graduated high school, and two finished college.) There are also photos, a glossary, a bibliography, and websites with additional information.

Do You Know Them? Families Lost and Found After the Civil War by Shana Keller, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, grades 1-4). After the Civil War, Lettie and her Uncle Charlie are searching for lost family members. The newspapers are filled with ads, mostly people seeking information about their families, but occasionally someone reporting that a loved one has been found. Lettie holds on to this hope as she saves her pennies and reads the ads aloud to the congregation at church. Finally, she and Uncle Charlie have saved the fifty cents needed for an ad. Weeks go by, until one Sunday, Lettie is able to share the ad from a woman saying she knows their family. “Hallelujah!” rings out through the church, celebrating with Lettie.

This moving historical fiction story of the post-Civil War years weaves some of the real ads into the narrative (the author’s note at the end tells more about them) and doesn’t shy away from stories that don’t end as happily as Lettie’s. The illustrations are beautiful, incorporating the ads and the pennies Lettie saves into the main pictures.
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