Summary: Grade 3-8–This unusual blend of archival photographs, historical background, and fictional narrative brings to life the experiences and emotions of the African-American students who made the tumultuous journey to school integration. Dramatic, mostly full-page, black-and-white photographs make up the bulk of the book. An introduction sets the scene, and factual pages, consisting of several sentences, are scattered throughout. They explain the significance of the events, the trauma of racial conflict, the courage and determination of African Americans and their supporters, and the importance of remembering and understanding. With poignant simplicity and insight, Morrison imagines the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the pictures. The wrenching, inspiring autobiographical school integration memoirs of first-grader Ruby Bridges (Through My Eyes [Scholastic, 1999]) and Little Rock Nine high school junior Melba Pettillo Beals (Warriors Don't Cry [Washington Square, 1995]) offer greater immediacy and convey a powerful message for future generations about the need for understanding, self-awareness, and self-respect. However, Morrison's reflective interpretation presents a gentler guide for younger readers. Appended are a chronology of "Key Events in Civil Rights and School Integration History"; "Photo Notes" that describe the actual date, location, and content of each picture; and a dedication that recalls the four young girls killed in the bombing of their Birmingham, AL, church in 1963. The provocative, candid images and conversational text should spark questions and discussion, a respect for past sacrifices, and inspiration for facing future challenges.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
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Classroom Implications: This text is "a gentle guide" for younger, less-experienced or highly sensitive readers. It is an interpretive text that straddles the lines between fiction and nonfiction (Morrison inserts thoughts/feelings to certain photographs in the text). This is a text that recounts AND reflects on the school desegration that the nation faced during the civil rights movement. Would be a nice pair with The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students.