All Aboard the Schooltrain: A Little Story from the Great Migration

Written by Glenda Armand Keisha Morris (illus.)
Review by G. J. Berger

Third-grader Thelma grows up by the railroad tracks in the small town of Vacherie, Louisiana, in the 1930s. She loves watching the Sunset Limited train pass by on its way to California. Every school morning, Thelma and other African American children form a single-file walking train to their school. White kids pass them in a yellow school bus and jeer. From her father and in the classroom, Thelma learns hard lessons about a man called Jim Crow, about their shabby school, about doors, stores, and jobs closed to her. Thelma’s father gets fired, and the family decides to join relatives in California and thereby becomes part of the Great Migration out of the South.

Thelma’s happy disposition and the cheerful illustrations mask deep sadness and injustice. Author end notes and photographs lay out Armand’s similar family history that inspired this story. Targeted for grades 2-5, this book informs readers of any age about the quiet dignity and great courage of African Americans as they sought a better life far from home.