Monday, May 12, 2014

The Girl from the Tar Paper School

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement
by Teri Kanefield
56 pages;
ages 10 - 14
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014

There are so many excellent nonfiction books this year - and this is just one of 'em. In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns was a high school junior with a problem to solve. She and her sister and all her friends attended the high school for black students located in the next town. The school was a too-small brick building with temporary classrooms built on to accommodate the large number of students. Those "temporary" classrooms were, writes Teri Kanefield, "made of wood covered with a heavy paper coated with tar." The kids referred to them as "chicken coops". The problem, as Barbara Rose Johns saw it: they weren't temporary.

The roofs leaked. They had no heat except for tiny wood stoves - and students had to wear hats and scarves to class. When Barbara told her teacher that she was "sick and tired" of the second-class school, her teacher challenged her to do something about it. But what could a kid do?

Barbara led her classmates in a strike - a peaceful boycott meant to draw attention to the appalling conditions at the school. There is a wonderful chapter in the book that details the strike, and subsequent chapters that tell about the Civil Rights movement that came on the heels of Barbara's boycott and Brown v Board of Education. The book is rich with photos and back matter that includes authors note and a Civil Rights timeline.

Check out what other bloggers are reviewing over at Nonfiction MondayReview copy provided by publisher.


  1. I don't read very much non-fiction but this sounds wonderful. Thanks for featuring and opening my eyes to the other side of the writing world.

  2. Adding to TBR right now. It sounds like a perfect length, and the fact that it is about a school will make this very immediate to my students. Thanks for recommending it!

  3. I need to get going on my non-fiction TBR's and this is going to be one of them. Thanks!

  4. Wow! What a story! This sounds like an important one that kids today should read and think about. Thanks for sharing!