Celebrated Jamaica Plain children’s author Susan E. Goodman recently won the best Picture Book/Early Reader Award in the 17th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards.
“The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial,” illustrated by E.B. Lewis, tells the story of Sarah Roberts, the brave girl who fought to desegregate Boston’s public schools in the 1800s. Although her family lost its case against the city, the case laid important groundwork for the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated American schools.
“Winning any award is an honor, but acknowledgement from your home state is a real thrill, especially since we have so many great writers here,” said Goodman, a professor of creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge.
The 2017 Massachusetts Book Awards were announced last week, marking the most recent accolade for Goodman’s “The First Step.” Her book also won a Jane Addams Peace Award, a 2017 Orbis Pictus Honor Book from the National Council of Teachers of English, a 2017 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book from the National Council of Social Studies and “Kids Best of the Best Book” from Chicago Public Library.
Through her research for “The First Step,” based in 1847 Boston prior to the Civil War, she observed the ways that both sides mobilized and reacted in the tug-of-war over segregation. Goodman is grateful for the recognition the book has earned and hopes that it helps teach history’s struggles.
“Writing this book made me realize more than ever before that if we have values we really care about, we must nurture them, and fight for them. Otherwise they can slip away,” said Goodman.