The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial


An important exploration of the struggle for equality and education in this country. –School Library Journal (starred review)





In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts started school in Boston.  One day she was told she could never come back.  She didn’t belong.  The Otis was only for white children.  Her parents filed the  first case challenging our courts to outlaw segregated schools.  And they made history.


•Junior Library Guild Selection

•2017 Orbis Pictus Honor Book (National Council of the Teachers of English)

•2017 Jane Addams Peace Association Honor Book

•2017 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book (National Council of Social Studies)

•2017 Teachers’ Choice Pick (International Literacy Assn.)

•NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book of 2017

•Kids Best of the Best Book 2016: Chicago Public Library

•Nerdy Book Club Best Nonfiction Book of 2016

•Finalist for the 2016 Cybils Awards

•Kids Best of the Best Book 2016: Chicago Public Library


How can I pick just one snippet from Julie Danielson’s review, published in BookPage?

With Lewis’s stirring watercolors that astutely capture the emotion of history, this book is an eloquent, inspiring reminder that “the march toward justice is a long, twisting journey.  -The New York Times

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. Lewis’s light-dappled acrylic and watercolor paintings balance clear portraits with faded background images, illuminating the story’s emotional and historical heft.  -Publishers Weekly

Expanding the understanding of equal rights in the classroom is sadly timely, and this helps to fill in an early part of the picture. –Kirkus Reviews

Although the first impulse will be to put this story to curricular use in civil rights units, this could be of excellent service as an investigation of how a history book gets made. -Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books


boylston school


In Sarah’s day, all Boston kids started school once they were four years old.  So if your birthday was in September, you would start school in September.  And if your birthday was in February, you’d start then.