The Worst First Day

Bullied While Desegregating Central High

Children - Grade 4th-6th
152 Pages
Reviewed on 05/12/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite

The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High by Elizabeth Eckford, Eurydice Stanley, and Grace Stanley is a non-fiction memoir of what happened in the early days of desegregation and, specifically, when a young girl became the first black student to enter an all-white school for the first time at the Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. In this book, we hear a firsthand account of this experience from Elizabeth Eckford, the young black girl who was part of the now-historic Little Rock Nine. She recounts the fear, the intimidation, the bullying, and threats of violence that she and the other students underwent throughout that period. The book also showcases a lot of photographs and illustrations of those times which show that the hate and violence against African Americans was and is so real and virulent. The book also includes short anecdotes, information, and other relevant resources related to the topic of racism and what it means in today’s world.

The Worst First Day is one of the finest books I have read and is a must-read for young adults and adults alike. It is even more important and relevant in today’s era where the younger generation may not have a complete sense of what it was like in the days of legal segregation and pre-Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. Some of the experiences that are recounted in this book are eye-opening and sorely needed at a time when racism is still alive and truly well in America as in many other parts of the world. The writing and flow of this book are very well organized and the pictures truly bring the story and the era to life. Books like this not only teach a part of history but also provide a better path for the future through awareness. I highly recommend this book for every young student and for readers everywhere!

Jack Magnus

The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High is an educational/historical book for children, grades 4-6, written by Elizabeth Eckford, Eurydice Stanley, and Grace Stanley, with graphic artwork by Rachel Gibson. Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford was both excited and nervous about the first day of school. While students universally experience those feelings as summer ends, Elizabeth and her eight peers were embarking on a mission when they made a life-changing decision to attend classes at Little Rock’s Central High. It was 1957, and they would be the first African Americans to be students at Central High. They had been inspired by the progress made by the Civil Rights Movement, especially the fight for voting rights and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Now, they would not only be receiving the superior education Central High was known for, but they would also be doing their part to end segregation.

While The Worst First Day is listed as a children’s book, I wouldn’t hesitate to urge anyone who wants to know more about the Civil Rights Movement to read this book. Elizabeth’s first-hand account of her harrowing first day at Central High brings that struggle home in a personal way. That young girl’s courage and composure as she stood alone amidst all the hatred are inspiring indeed, and her accounts of the difficulties those nine young people encountered may lead people to think a bit more clearly about the sacrifices made by Eckford and others, especially in these days when civil rights seem threatened yet again. Her story is told clearly and eloquently, and the accompanying photographs and illustrations give this powerful presentation even more of an impact. I’m proud to have been given the opportunity to read and review her story. I hope that parents and caregivers take the time to read it with their kids. The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High is most highly recommended.

K.C. Finn

The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High is a work of non-fiction for children which focuses on racial issues of the 1950s in relation to the experience of people today. It was penned by co-authors Elizabeth Eckford, Dr. Eurydice Stanley, and Grace Stanley, and includes illustration by Rachel Gibson and photographic content by Will Counts and Kirk Jordan. Chronicling the experiences of Eckford when she was a high school student, the book explains the experiencing of being the first African American to arrive in an all-white high school during the desegregation efforts. Through hatred and bullying, the positive message of diversity stands tall through this account of her experiences and the impact they had on the world.

I believe that the work of co-authors Elizabeth Eckford, Dr. Eurydice Stanley, and Grace Stanley strikes an important chord for remembering how far we have come in a time when segregation and hate speech threatens to rear its ugly head once again in modern society. The verse-style storytelling of Eckford’s experiences really connects powerful use of language to relatable and readable style for children, with memorable lines that show the raw highs and lows of the bullying she endured, but also the massive impact her image had on the rest of the world. The images contained are well collated and organized to highlight the experience further, making a truly human and emotive impact that lasts long after the reading experience is over. An epic poem for the modern age, The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High is highly recommended reading for all young people.

Kayti Nika Raet

The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High is an illustrated autobiography by one of the Little Rock Nine, Elizabeth Eckford, along with Dr. Eurydice Stanley and Grace Stanley. Detailing her experiences as the first African American student to arrive at Little Rock Central High to desegregate the school, Eckford empathizes with the newest generation dealing with the impact of bias or bullying. Using photos from her time in the Civil Rights Movement that show her staunchness in the face of discrimination and hate at only 15 years old, Eckford shares a more personalized look at the efforts to desegregate.

What Eckford does well is share her story in such a way that we feel each moment she goes through in a visceral way, and while with the blessing of time she is able to look back with an understanding of human nature and peer pressure, only those who make the effort toward genuine growth and reflection are absolved. Throughout the book, Eckford reiterates the need for respect in word and deed and encourages the reader to stand up for those in need of help. History never favors the bully. I thought the book was pretty well written. The illustrations add a lot to the story as well as the photos detailing that time in Eckford's life. All in all, Elizabeth Eckford is encouraging throughout, asserting that each one of us can make a difference in the lives of others. Hopefully, it will be a positive one.

Samantha Gregory

The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High by Elizabeth Eckford, Eurydice Stanley, and Grace Stanley is the story of how a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas became the first to admit black students back in the 1950s. The nine brave students endured abuse, violence, and racial hate every day, but they persevered and made history. The book tells the story of Elizabeth Eckford and what she had to deal with from fellow students and adults alike and the journey to changing the law.

The authors have compiled a compelling and eye-opening book in The Worst First Day. What they went through is beyond belief but they changed history with their actions, just because they wanted a decent education and a shot at a college scholarship. The book is well written and it could be read by any age group. I think it is a very important piece of history and that everyone from every background should read it. Stories like this are not talked about as often as they should be. With racism still an issue today, it is important that children especially learn about what has been lost in order to change things and what else needs to be done to help people today. I read it in one sitting. The use of verse worked very well for this book. I think this will do very well on the market and would definitely recommend it.