A teacher helps her students protest U.S. segregation with sit-ins.
In the 1930s, young Clara Luper notices a “Whites Only” park in her Oklahoma town. Her father, who is crying, promises her that “someday will be real soon,” when segregation will no longer exclude black Americans. Rhuday-Perkovich commendably explains the concept of segregation for young readers, emphasizing that it is “separate and unequal” (printed in bold, like other key points). Grown and become a teacher, Clara stresses that “education meant participation.” Performing a play she wrote in New York City, Clara and her students experience integrated facilities and realize “in some places, someday was now.” Back in Oklahoma City, they decide to combat segregation using the four steps of nonviolence: “investigation, negotiation, education, and demonstration.” During sit-ins at a lunch counter, the young activists’ white friends and neighbors turn to enemies. Johnson uses facial expressions and stains on clothes to effectively convey stress and tension in a manner sensitive to readers unfamiliar with the violence of the civil rights movement. Johnson’s ability to depict great emotion through something as simple as a teardrop is laudable, as is the intentional portrayal of the spectrum of shades found among black people.
Not only does this book highlight an important civil rights activist, it can serve as an introduction to child activism as well as the movement itself. Valuable. (author’s notes, glossary) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)