March Forward Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine by Melba Beals, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Summary:  Melba Beals, who told her story of helping to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in Warriors Don’t Cry, recounts her early days, growing up in Jim Crow Arkansas.  At the age of three, she observed her family making the house quiet and dark each night, hoping the Ku Klux Klan would leave them alone.  She raged at seeing her beloved parents and grandmother slighted and scolded whenever they went into town, and at having to use inferior facilities everywhere, while white people got the best of everything.  As she grew up, her fear and anger turned into a determination to change things and to get out of Arkansas.  She jumped at the chance to go to Central High School, a huge, beautiful school that she had admired for years.  The main part of the book ends right before she starts high school; an epilogue describes the violent and frightening experience of integration.  The text is illustrated with drawings and a few photographs.  224 pages; grades 6-9.

Pros:  Readers will gain a better understanding of what it was like for African Americans living in the South in the 1940’s.  Beals’ conversational tone draws the reader in, and her story is so powerful and compelling (and at times, horrifying) that the book is hard to put down.

Cons:  This book is recommended for grade 5 or age 10 and up.  Be aware that there is a scene in which the KKK storms into a prayer meeting, and 5-year-old Melba witnesses a lynching from the church rafters; at age 11, she gets lost on a dark, isolated road and narrowly escapes being raped and/or murdered by a group of Klansmen.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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