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Review of March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine

March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine
by Melba Pattillo Beals; 

illus. by Frank Morrison
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    214 pp.
1/18    978-1-328-88212-7    $16.99

Beals, author of the adult memoir 
Warriors Don’t Cry, received the 
Congressional Gold Medal for her bravery in helping to integrate Central High School in 1957 as one of the Little Rock Nine; here she recounts the childhood years that led up to her determination to take that important step. Fear was a constant, as she learned very early that “the color of my skin framed the entire scope of my life.” Beals vividly relates the many incidents that caused her to be afraid: the Ku Klux Klan would ride through her Little Rock neighborhood; Mr. Waylans’s grocery story was a place of constant humiliation; signs everywhere told her “NO COLOREDS”; and even church could become a place of terror (she witnessed a lynching inside her church at age five). Melba was a reader, curious about the world she was growing into. “I wanted to find out where the permission came from that allowed [whites] to treat us as badly as they did now.” So she read about Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks, and this history helps provide context for her personal story. Beals’s account, made even more immediate by the addition of photographs and Morrison’s child-friendly black-and-white illustrations, stops as she is poised to integrate Central High School at age fifteen. An epilogue recounts that harrowing story; back matter tells of the safe haven she eventually found with a white family in California after the Klan offered a bounty for each member of the Little Rock Nine, dead or alive.

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.

About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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