Fall 2023

Small Shoes, Great Strides

How Three Brave Girls Opened Doors to School Equality

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 5
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost didn’t set out to make history. But when these three Black first graders stepped into the all-white McDonogh No. 19 Public School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960, that’s exactly what they did. They integrated their school just ten minutes before Ruby Bridges walked into her school, also in New Orleans. Like Ruby, the trio faced crowds of protestors fighting against public school desegregation efforts and relied on US Marshals to keep them safe. Their teacher protected them every step of the way, and the girls formed a close bond, becoming friends for life.

Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson conducted extensive interviews to bring this little-known story from the Civil Rights Movement to a broad audience. Vivid illustrations by fine artist Alex Bostic highlight the girls’ strength, courage, and determination.

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 5
Reading Level Grade 3
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Biography, Diverse Books: Feminism, Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: B Self-Management, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, SEL: E Responsible Decision-Making, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2023
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 40
Publication Date 2023-11-07
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF025180, JNF018010, JNF007110
Dewey 379.2/630976335
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Original artwork, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of The Book Itch, as well as three Coretta Scott King Award-winning books: No Crystal Stair, Bad News for Outlaws, and Almost to Freedom. She is a former youth services librarian in New Mexico. Visit her online at vaundanelson.com.

Illustrator: Alex Bostic

Alex Bostic is a nationally award-winning realist painter based in Mississippi. He holds a BFA in Illustration from Pratt Institute and an MA in Illustration from Syracuse University. With more than forty years of being an illustrator, Alex decided to further develop and focus on his personal work and he is now a traditional figurative artist.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Small Shoes, Great Strides

Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost didn’t set out to make history. But when these three Black first graders stepped into the all-white McDonogh No. 19 Public School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960, that’s exactly what they did. They integrated their school just… View available downloads →

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Small Shoes, Great Strides: An Interview with Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Many students know the story of Ruby Bridges, but how about the McDonogh Three? Small Shoes, Great Strides: How Three Brave Girls Opened Doors to School Equality tells the powerful true story of how Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost courageously integrated a New Orleans school View →


  • Dogwood Readers Award Finalist, Short-listed, 2024
  • Booklist Top 10 History Books for Youth, Winner, 2024
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year 2024, Winner, 2024
  • Booklist Editor's Choice, Winner, 2023


School Library Journal

“[B]rutal, enlightening, hopeful, and realistic. An important piece of history, the book is a treasure and will require classroom discussion.”—starred, School Library Journal

The Horn Book Magazine

“Bostic’s evocative illustrations add tenderness to a narrative of real terror. . . An important addition to civil rights movement literature with which readers can connect on a human level.” —starred, The Horn Book Magazine

Foreword Reviews

“[A]n unmissable story about everyday courage whose notes about the importance of overcoming discrimination remain timely.” —starred, Foreword Reviews

Publishers Weekly

“Micheaux Nelson and Bostic’s information-packed picture book examines an overlooked story of civil rights . . . Art in browns, purples, and golds juxtaposes saturated portraits of the girls with sepia-tone scenes of protesters.”—starred, Publishers Weekly


“Bostic invokes the school’s brown paper window coverings as a moving background for glorious acrylic portraiture featuring violets and purples that summon feminism and the threesome’s status as civil rights royalty . . . A welcome spotlight on the undersung history of three girls whose bravery and endured torment carved a path for generations.” — starred, Booklist