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Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration
Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration
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Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration

Nine African American students made history when they defied a governor and integrated an Arkansas high school in 1957. It was the photo of a young girl trying to enter the school being taunted, harassed and threatened by an angry mob that grabbed the world's attention and kept its disapproving gaze on Little Rock, Arkansas. In defiance of a federal court order, Governor Orval Faubus called in the National Guard to prevent the students from entering all white Central High School. The plan had been for the students to meet and go to school as a group on September 4, 1957. But one student didn't  hear of the plan and tried to enter the school alone. A chilling photo by newspaper photographer Will Counts captured the sneering expression of a girl in the mob and made history. Years later Counts snapped another photo, this one of the same two girls, now grownup, reconciling in front of Central High School.

PublisherCompass Point Books
Age Level10-12 Years
Reading LevelGrades 5-7
Trim Size9 1/4 x 10 1/4
Page Count64



Ms. Yingling Reads blog - Karen Yingling

"The pictures reveal so much about the world of this time, and will help students understand the events a little better. Having one small moment, such as this picture, to focus on helps make a little more sense of a complicated event." - Ms. Yingling Reads blog

February 27, 2012

Netfalley Review - Rebecca Pates

"I would recommend it to anyone who is interested or studying this period of history." - Netfalley Review

February 28, 2011


Denton ISD - Rhonda Thomas

"The book is lush with clear black and white and color photographs from the era. Side bars draw the reader in to the information written in spare prose. The explanation of what one of the Little Rock Nine went through when she showed up alone and first to Central High School is a story that comes alive with pictures. Learn things you did not know about this famous turning point in history. The book is totally appropriate for grades 4-12. It is a joy to look at and read." - Denton ISD

March 8, 2013

NetGalley - Aarti Nagaruju

"Little Rock Girl 1957 is a very short book- only about 65 pages long- about the power of the photograph on the right to bring the Civil Rights movement to the world's attention. The photo is one of the most powerful ones of the 20th century and certainly in American history, describing a time when segregation reigned throughout the country and African-Americans were beginning to firmly fight against it. It was snapped on the first day of school, 1957, after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ruling that separate was not the same as equal and that the education system had to be integrated beginning in the fall. This decision caused a huge backlash, and it all came to a head in Little Rock, Arkansas, where nine African-American students attempted to go to school, only to be denied admittance by Arkansas state National Guardsmen and a mob-like atmosphere of hate by fellow students and residents. I thought the book would be very informative about the people in the Little Rock Nine and those intimately connected with all the drama. However, as the book is so short (and much of it is taken up with brief biographies of the nine and a Civil Rights timeline), there was none of that available to me. The more I learn about the Civil Rights movement, the more it fascinates me, particularly the role of women. After reading When Everything Changed and its detailed chapter on the Civil Rights movement, I was inspired to learn more and thought that this book (pamphlet?) would be a great way to do so. But it didn't quite hit the spot. I think this book is written for a much younger audience. It is very skimpy on details, just being a really brief overview on the Little Rock Central High School event, and focusing just as much on the photographer as on Elizabeth Eckford (the African-American girl in the photo above). It read much more like a brief textbook mention than anything else. It also was very, very poorly edited. Each chapter had titles with odd capitalization issues (LiKe tHiS, wHiCh ReAlLy AnNoYeD Me). It made the book seem more like a teeny-bopper yearbook than a non-fictional account of a very important moment in US history. There were also photos with captions that were nowhere near the photos and a lot of spacing problems between words. Clearly, this book is meant as an introduction for teenagers to the subject, not a fully-immersed story for adults. That said, there were some things I learned from here that I didn't know before. For example, many people make a big deal about the friendship that developed later in life bewteen Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Massery, the two most prominent and striking figures in the photo above. However, many people were skeptical of that friendship, thinking that Massery was just in it for the publicity and that she was still a racist. Eckford eventually seems to have believed this, too, because the friendship ended very shortly after it began. I also didn't know much about the Arkansas state governor, the one who called out the National Guard to ensure that the nine African-American students would not be allowed into the school, and who also managed to get schools in Little Rock shut down (by majority vote) rather than be forced to integrate. Governor Orval Faubus (wow, what a name) could easily be dismissed as a complete racist... except that he later endorsed Jesse Jackson in the 1984 Presidential primary. I also learned that Little Rock's mayor, Woodrow Nelson Mann, was pro-integration and fought hard against Faubus for the integration of Little Rock's schools. So there were lots of great nuggets in this book that I appreciated, but I think I expected too much from it. It was more about how the photograph above symbolized a very divided America than about the Little Rock issue itself. It did, however, come with a list of recommended further reading, so I'll be going into that list for sure!" - NetGalley

June 30, 2011


Booklist - Julia Smith

"Top 10 Continuing Series! The stunning books in this series view history through the lens of groundbreaking photographs, zooming in on iconic moments and then placing them in greater historical context. Look for series subsets in world history and sports, too." - Booklist

October 1, 2016

Education Resource Center, Delaware Center for Teacher Education, University of - Jaclyn Smagala

"Tougas smoothly blends the personal stories of the Little Rock Nine with the overarching historical implications of that day in 1957 and the landmark legislation in years to follow.  This informative book is a great resource for young readers and would make an excellent addition to school libraries." - Education Resource Center, Delaware Center for Teacher Education, University of

February 15, 2012


The Dirty Lowdown blog - Robert Carraher

"This review is a first for The Dirty Lowdown, which is befitting since the subject of this book was also a first, although infinitely more courageous and important. This book, Little Rock Girl 1957, meant for readers ages eight through about fourteen. That makes this the first “JUVENILE” book we have reviewed here. That said, I know an awful lot of adults that could benefit from a refresher course in American History.   On September 4, 1957, less than two weeks from today, in Little Rock, Arkansas nine African American students defied their governor and started the fight to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. Now known as The Little Rock Nine, those children faced both physical, verbal and emotional abuse few of us will ever face. And, with few exceptions, could not and would not find protection or support in adults, teachers, their fellow students or the community. The fight was not won that day, and it wasn’t won even that year or necessarily for years to come. Perhaps that fight still hasn’t come to an end. First, the book.  The author, Shelley Marie Tougas set out to write a contemporary history aimed at an audience of fifth through eighth graders depicting an era that is every bit as important as many other milestones in American History. I think she achieved both goals. She researched the book very well, finding many photographs and interviews that haven’t seen the light of day in decades. The interviews and recollections of the children who were on the front line that day and in days to come, are especially poignant. Further, Ms. Tougas did not color the narrative with her own feelings and emotions. This is well documented history that an eight year old could easily digest and an adult could profit from as well.   It is a straight forward history, 64 pages long and contains many historical photographs of the events started that day, and continuing through that school year. There are also many photographs and recollections from the recent past that put a very human face to these events. Many of the Little Rock Nine, the photographers and journalists, parents, supporters in the black community and nationally, contribute and tell a broader story.   The stage was set for the events in Little Rock in 1954 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in the land landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation.   Three years later, 15 year old Elizabeth Eckford attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School, television cameras recording the moment, the a jeering crowd chanting, “two, four, six, eight – we don’t want to integrate.” Elizabeth, hugging her books and wondering where her fellow black students were, was alone.   Nine students had been handpicked by school official to integrate the school that morning. The night before, the eight other students had received a phone call from Daisy Bates, the president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP telling them to meet a handful of local ministers, both black and white, who would walk with them to the school to help them feel safe and to, perhaps, remind the hostile crowd of the importance of “tolerance”. I will come back to that word, “tolerance” in a moment.   Elizabeth did not get the word. Her family did not have a telephone. As she neared the doors of the school, she was seen looking around at the crowd of angry white people, spewing hate and following her to the entrance. She momentarily seemed to find hope in the soldiers with rifles near the school, guessing that they were there to make sure she and the other eight children got into the school safely. It was not to be. The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, had ordered the Arkansas National Guardsmen to turn away the black students. Elizabeth was met by armed soldiers with crossed" - The Dirty Lowdown blog

August 22, 2011

The Nonfiction Book Detectives blog

"Top Ten History Books of 2012" - The Nonfiction Book Detectives blog

December 31, 2012


SLJ Curriculum Connections - Daryl Grabarek

"In Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration (Compass Point, 2012; Gr 6 Up), Shelley Tougas tells the story of the students that came to be known as the Little Rock Nine through the iconic photograph that shocked a nation and a world. The author begins by describing the events of September 4, 1957, and the experience of Elizabeth Eckford, the young African-American woman whose image is seared into our national memory, and the fate of the other eight students that day. Later chapters discuss how the events in Little Rock also "tested the federal government's authority over state and local government" and provide background on school segregation and Brown v. Board of Education, the photographer Will Counts, and individuals whose role in the events in Little Rock (Governor Orval E. Faubus, Thurgood Marshall, and Daisy Gatson Bates) are well known. The slim volume is filled with large black-and-white photos. Tougus makes it clear that once in the school, the Little Rock Nine continued to be harassed. Ernest Green, a senior during the 1957-8 school year, was the only one of the nine to graduate from Little Rock Central High School. During the years that followed, the remaining eight students left the school to continue their educations elsewhere. . . .Begin by sharing Little Rock 1957 with your students. Ask them about their impressions of the book's cover photo, and then offer some background on when it was taken and by whom. Discuss other photos in the book and the impact they had across the country. Once your students are familiar with the Central High story, booktalk or read aloud Kristen Levine's novel. Ask them how they think they would have reacted as members of this community and why. Discuss peer pressure and crowd mentality. Have they ever been pressured into behaviors or attitudes they felt uncomfortable with? Consider what happens when the white community of Little Rock is forced to examine their attitude toward integration and take a stand. Would the previously neutral members of the white community have taken a stand if the education of their children was not at risk? Students are likely to be interested to learn what became of the Little Rock Nine. Tougas provides that information, as well as a photo of a reunion of the group that took place in 1997 at anniversary ceremony, and another of a meeting years later, of Hazel Byran Massery, the white student seen screaming at 15-year old Elizabeth Eckford in Will Counts's historic photo." - SLJ Curriculum Connections

January 10, 2012

Goodreads With Ronna blog - Ronna Mandel

"Tougas’s terrific book details the unbelievable story of these nine teenagers’ traumatic time seeking a public education that was their right and shows how powerful the medium of photography was in getting the message out to the public. In just four chapters along with a timeline, glossary and additional resources section, Little Rock Girl 1957 is a must-have for any classroom and student interested in the story behind this amazing photograph and history-changing moment. Part of the Captured History series of nonfiction middle grade books, Little Rock Girl 1957 has given me a broader perspective on these troubled times and will give student readers insight into the strength and courage displayed by the Little Rock Nine in the face of blatant discrimination and shocking, unlawful behavior." - Goodreads With Ronna blog

January 15, 2012


NetGalley - Cathy Lin

"Informative, includes index, timeline, glossary and a page for online resources. Touches upon journalism and the impact of a photo, and text itself is diverse enough for a broad range of grades (3rd and up). Haunting quote "I had to to get from that door to the end of the hall without dying." Another Capstone winner." - NetGalley

July 1, 2011

An Abundance of Books blog

"Having grown up in Little Rock I knew I had to get Little Rock Girl when I saw it on NetGalley. Of course I knew the story, everybody in Arkansas knows about the Little Rock Nine. My best friend went to Central High; my family was very involved in the volunteer community and had met the late Daisy Bates on several occasions; I knew people who had been extras in Disney's The Earnest Green Story and I clearly remember the filming; some of my parents coworkers were members of the Central High class that never graduated; I remembered the 40th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine when then President Clinton returned to Arkansas to help celebrate; heck, I even knew the gentleman who created the monument - man I knew stuff about this event. And I was surprised by the things I didn't know. I knew that Elizabeth Eckford never got the news that all of the students were to meet at Daisy Bates' house (head of the state's chapter of the NAACP) so that they could all walk to school together. I'm sure we've all seen the photo of the white mob with twisted faces spewing hatred at an African-American student trying to walk to school. However, I didn't know how far that mob had followed the 15-year-old Eckford. They surrounded her at a bus stop and threatened to lynch her! She was 15 years old and these adults, and their children of the same age, thought it was ok to murder her! I also didn't know that chances were the only reason Elizabeth Eckford got away was because members of the press and a good samaritan kept the crowd at bay until the bus came. While I was familiar with the photograph I had no idea that this photograph had made such an impact on the country and the world at that time. I had always seen it as one of many pictures of ugliness, not one that had made such a difference. (Will Counts, the photographer was nominated for a Pulitzer and the Associated Press named it one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th century.) Little Rock Girl is 64 pages of clearly written history, unflinching in it's approach, but appropriate for its 5th-8th grade target audience. It recounts not only the events of the nearly 3 years of attempted integration, but other incidents, the Little Rock Nine's impact on the nation, as well as what happened with the photographer, the students, and some of those who opposed their chance at education (including Hazel Bryan, forever known as the viscous girl following Eckford). Little Rock Girl includes current pictures of those involved as well as a variety of other photographs from the integration of Central High. While not as bloody as some Civil Rights era pictures, some are violent and underscore the brutality of what African-Americans and civil rights supporters of all races were up against. Verdict: A well written an honest approach to the events surrounding the Little Rock Nine's attempt to integrate Central High. Little Rock Girl also includes the affects of these events on those involved as the years passed. Includes a timeline, additional resources, and multiple photographs and interviews. An excellent addition to any school or public library, Little Rock Girl is a great resource for those looking for more information on this facet of the Civil Rights movement." - An Abundance of Books blog

August 2, 2011


New Moon Girls magazine - Lilyana, 12, Oregon

"I loved this book. It grabbed my attention on the first line. . . .Anyone that reads this book will learn so much about the Little Rock crisis and also about the Civil Rights Movement. What inspired me was the strong young woman Elizabeth Eckford and the other 5 females . . . .These women stand for the strength and empowerment of ALL. I recommend this book for all ages. Children, teens and adults will all love this book and feel more empowered for reading it." - New Moon Girls magazine

February 1, 2012

Book Dragon, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

"Author Tougas effectively pulls together history, memories, and, of course, many photographs to present a mesmerizing, multi-layered mosaic of our challenging past." - Book Dragon, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

February 6, 2012


The Nonfiction Detectives blog - Cathy

"Capstone has published a series that will elicit rich discussions during visual thinking strategies discussions. . . .I'm planning to order the set of Captured History for my school library. There are so many possibilities for these titles. Students interested in history will scoop them up for independent reading, but they can also be used by teachers during history lessons." - The Nonfiction Detectives blog

July 9, 2012

Kiss the Book blog - Cindy Mitchell

"Elizabeth Eckford just wanted a good education, and she was willing to brave ridicule and scorn to get it. And scorn she received in heaping measure on the day that she first tried to go to class. Will Counts, a local photographer was able to snap an iconic photo that changed the national dialogue. This slim book manages to not only give us a history of the push for desegregated schools, but it also delves into personal stories of the photo’s two main subjects – Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan, the white girl who was shouting at her so vociferously. Students are given a chance to dive into the turmoil of the era and feel as if they were there. Not only should middle schools and high schools have this book, but anyone who teaches photography or photojournalism would love it also." - Kiss the Book blog

July 25, 2011


School Library Journal

"Best Books 2012. The role of the media as an impetus to social action is as timely a topic today as it was 55 years ago when a photograph of a scene outside an Arkansas school shocked the world. Striking black-and-white images document this defining event, while quotes by those present bring the tumultuous era and fight for integration into sharp focus." - School Library Journal

January 1, 2012

School Library Journal - Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN

"Starred Review! When Will Counts snapped a photo on September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford reluctantly became the face of the fight for school integration in Little Rock. In it, Eckford is poised and stoic as Hazel Bryan, shouting violently, follows behind her. This book explores the photo in depth, providing the perspectives of the two subjects and the photographer and discussing what the image meant in the struggle for school integration. Tougas works with this premise and provides readers with a full account of this troubling time in American history. The author makes good use of quotes throughout the readable text, enabling today’s students to imagine walking in the shoes of one of the Little Rock Nine. Each page includes an archival photo, primary-source document, or biography of a key player in the event. A testament to the power of the press and the bravery of all who fought for equal rights, this book should be required reading." - School Library Journal

January 12, 2012


School Library Journal, "Everyday Heroes" - Rhona Campbell

"The focus here is the shocking photograph of 15-year-old Elizabth Eckford being viciously jeered by a white peer as she and her fellow black students integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Tougas explains the context of the photograph and how the iconic image affected history." - School Library Journal, "Everyday Heroes"

January 1, 2013

Lilly Road blog

"This is an e-book I received from netGalley. Goodreads does not have a summary for me to post for you, but I will begin by just In 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States decided to begin integration. In 1957 the first integration into schools in Little Rock, Arkansas was to occur. This integration did not go well. The images shown in this book make you feel the emotion both the whites and blacks were feeling during that time. I couldn't imagine growing up in a time such as this. I wish that my grandparents were around so I could ask them questions about what they remembered, and how they felt, but unfortunately I was young when my grandparents died (on both sides) and they are no longer here to give me their perspective. In 1972...schools in Arkansas finally saw full integration. 1972?! It took 15 years to finally have schools integrated? It's heartbreaking to see what African-Americans have gone through to obtain equal rights in our country. What happened to "land of the free"? In a way, this book brought up my feelings of disgust for the way in which this country handles those of another color. We are all equals. We all deserve the same basic human rights. We should not be discriminating against anyone. Although this book is short (64 pages). I recommend reading it because it may open your eyes to the horrors others have had to experience. My only complaint is the formatting of the book on my Kindle, but I believe that is due to the book being sent as a pdf file. I do not have complaints about the content. This is a very moving and thought-provoking novel." - Lilly Road blog

July 7, 2011


Netgalley Review - Laura Warren

"The stories behind the photographs are sure to interest and inspire my students." - Netgalley Review

January 20, 2012

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford’s family didn’t have a telephone, so Elizabeth wasn’t informed of the plan for bringing all nine African-American students together to Little Rock Central High School on the morning of September 4, 1957. As a result, she arrived alone, was turned away alone, was escorted through crowds of angry white protesters alone, sat at the bus stop alone, and became the lone black face in reporter Will Counts’ iconic photograph featuring a petite, pretty white student whose expression is distorted by jeering as Eckford walks stoically ahead. Tougas offers background on the efforts by segregationists to block the Little Rock Nine from attending the all-white high school and then discusses how the published images of the taunting crowd influenced national opinion. Perhaps most poignant, and ultimately a bit chilling, is the story of Eckford’s eventual rapprochement, organized by Counts, with Hazel Bryan Massery, the white teen in the infamous photo: “The women’s friends and family members thought the relationship was odd and perhaps forced. Some people accused Massery of seeking the media attention that Eckford had spent a lifetime avoiding. . . . The friendly relationship did not last.” This slim volume, heavily illustrated and supplemented with a timeline, glossary, resources lists, notes, bibliography, and index, will be particularly accessible for students who are unwilling to tackle a longer work on the topic. It can also serve as supplemental reading for Levine’s The Lions of Little Rock." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

February 1, 2012


NY Book Reviews blog

"...a good book for children about fifth to eighth grade and a refresher course for adults." - NY Book Reviews blog

November 14, 2011

Read Up On It blog - Suzanne Pitner

"This book is small in pages but powerful in impact. Using narrative and pictures, it chronicles the events surrounding the nine African American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, who bravely faced angry crowds to attend the all white Little Rock Central High School in 1957. In stunning photography, taken by reporters covering the events, readers can see the anger and hatred on the part of the white students as the African-American students approach the school. One of the most notable photos is of Hazel Bryan shouting at Elizabeth Eckford, taken by Will Counts. Years later, the two women reconciled their differences, and the photo of that occasion also appears in the book. The courage and perseverance of these nine African-American men and women is recorded as one of the most important events in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. They faced verbal and physical abuse, threats, and constant harassment as they went to school each day. This photographic historical volume is a powerful way to raise awareness of this chapter in American history. Teachers and librarians would do well to add this book to their collections." - Read Up On It blog

July 8, 2011


School Library Journal, "Flashback: These Books of Historical Photographs Transp - Kathleen Baxter, former head of children's services at the Anoka County Library

""Captured History" is the perfect name for a fascinating series from Compass Point." - School Library Journal, "Flashback: These Books of Historical Photographs Transp

December 1, 2013


TriState Young Adult Review Committee

2012 Books of Note

March 1, 2012

Junior Library Guild/School Library Journal

Selected by Junior Library Guild/SLJ Curriculum Levels

January 1, 2012

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association

2011 Young Adult Top Forty Nonfiction Title

April 1, 2012


2011 Editor's Choice Books for Youth

December 1, 2011

Virginia Library Association

2012 Jefferson Cup Award, Series Worthy of Note

October 1, 2012

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association

2011Young Adult Top Forty Nonfiction Title

April 1, 2012

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association

2011 Young Adult Top Forty Nonfition Title

April 1, 2012


Nonfiction Honor List 2011

January 1, 2012

Independent Publisher Online

2012 Moonbeam Children's Book Award, Gold Winner

October 1, 2012

Midwest Independent Publishers Association

2013 Midwest Book Award Finalist

April 1, 2013

School Library Journal

Best Books of 2012

December 1, 2012


Nonfiction Honor List 2012

January 1, 2013

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association

2013 YA Top 40 …an excellent account of the Little Rock Nine and their integration into an all-white high school in 1957.

May 1, 2013

Shelley Tougas

Shelley Tougas

Shelley Tougas worked in journalism and public relations before writing children’s books. She is the author of Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration, which was among Booklist’s 2011 Top Ten Editors’ Choices. Shelley lives, writes, and reads in North Mankato, Minnesota.

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