Virgie Goes To School With Us Boys

( 2 )


All Virgie wants is to go to school with her brothers George, Will, Nelson, Val, and C. C. But they keep saying she's too little for the long, seven-mile walk, and that girls don't need school.
Well, Virgie doesn't agree, and she's not gonna let anything stand in her way.

In the post-Civil War South, a young African American girl is determined to prove that she can go to school just like her older...

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All Virgie wants is to go to school with her brothers George, Will, Nelson, Val, and C. C. But they keep saying she's too little for the long, seven-mile walk, and that girls don't need school.
Well, Virgie doesn't agree, and she's not gonna let anything stand in her way.

In the post-Civil War South, a young African American girl is determined to prove that she can go to school just like her older brothers.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In the wake of freedom, many slaves in the United States had few options for work and education. The Quakers were one group of people who built special schools to help freed slaves educate themselves and their families. One such school was built in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Inspired by a visit to the school and family stories of survival and success in Tennessee, Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard wrote this story.

Virgie is an adamant young girl who is insistent about one thing -- she wants an education. But in the days of Reconstruction, only boys went to school. This doesn't discourage Virgie, and she keeps nagging her brothers. But her brothers are sure she won't be able to make the seven-mile walk to school or that she'll cry over having to spend a whole week away from Mama. Finally, they argue that girls don't even need school. But Virgie thinks girls should learn to read and write too. All summer long, Virgie keeps asking her papa, and finally he says, "All free people need learning -- old folks, young folks...small girls, too."

Fall arrives, and Mama sends her children off to school with food for the whole week. They set out on their journey in a straight line, watching out for Virgie. Keeping up with the boys, keeping her hands out of poison ivy, and keeping above water when crossing the stream, Virgie holds her own. When the children reach the woods, the true test is at hand. The dark woods quiet the kids, but Virgie suggests they sing. Their voices in harmony ease their fears, and the woods are not so scary. Out of the woods and into town, they reach the Quaker school. Virgie meets the headmaster and checks out the schoolhouse, with its wooden desks and many books. Virgie is in awe, and young readers will know that she has just begun her true lesson in freedom.

Howard treats readers to a story rich with history and strong messages, including equal education opportunities for women and freedom for ex-slaves. Virgie is perfectly portrayed as an eager and headstrong girl, thanks to the watercolor illustrations of E. B. Lewis. From her stern look of determination with her hands on her hips as she convinces her brothers to take her to school to her sheer delight after they cross the woods and she enters town, Lewis wonderfully depicts Virgie's emotions. The beautiful watercolors also express the quiet determination of the boys as they lead Virgie to school. One particular picture shows the siblings in front of the dark-green woods, dense and full of the unknown. The figures of the children standing aligned and ready to traverse the wilderness to get an education perfectly illustrates the struggle for freedom and learning.

The final scene, in which Virgie is in the schoolhouse touching the books, will inspire and remind readers of the true meaning and wonder of education. Virgie's smile on the last page lights up the whole story, and young readers are sure to find themselves returning to her hope and determination time and time again.

--Amy Barkat

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Howard (Chita's Christmas Tree) plucks fruit from her family tree for this stellar story of an African-American girl determined to get an education just like her brothers. Narrated by the young C.C. (Howard's grandfather), the tale is set during Reconstruction, when schools sprang up all over the South to help educate the children of freed slaves, and it is based on the particular school attended by the real-life C.C. and his siblings in Jonesborough, Tenn. Virgie, the youngest of the siblings and the only girl, is determined to attend the school, despite the protests of her family ("You scarcely big as a field mouse. And school's seven miles from here!"). Finally, her parents acquiesce, sending her off with her five brothers with a week's worth of food and clothing in a bucket. Undeterred by a slip in the creek and a scary trek through the woods ("Didn't I tell you about Raw Head and Bloody Bones? Get you if you're not good, folks said. Might get you anyway"), Virgie is a radiant heroine. The easy flow of vernacular effortlessly propels the story, and Howard proves herself adept at plucking a large-scale episode from history and adapting it to the scale of a picture book. Lewis's (The Bat Boy and His Violin) luminous watercolors capture both the rhythms of C.C. and Virgie's rural existence and the story's emotional subtext, and his character studies fairly burst with life. Ages 6-8. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Virgie's brothers all go to school and she desperately wants to go with them. The story is set during Reconstruction when blacks were free, but there were few resources to help them get an education and integrate into society. Virgie finally prevails and her parents let her go to a Quaker school seven miles away. As her father says "All free people need learning--Old folks, young folks...small girls too." The distance is so great that the kids bring their clean clothes and food so they can spend the week there. Virgie proves her mettle, and the arduous trek and sheer joy on her face once at the school are beautifully captured in E. B. Lewis' watercolors.
From The Critics
Illustrated by gentle pastel watercolors and framed in the vernacular language of Blacks in the late 1800's, this book is an enticing, partly fictional account of a young girl who wishes to be schooled alongside her brothers. Virgie manages to impress upon her parents her determination to read and write. (More importantly, she manages to convince her five brothers to let her tag along as they make their day's journey to the newly-freed Blacks.) One of the five boys is the author's grandfather. 2000, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: E. Fox SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Howard's fictional account is based on remembrances of the author's great uncles, specifically their descriptions of the Reconstruction period when slaves were "learning to be free." Virgie is a feisty young girl with a hunger for knowledge and a willingness to walk seven miles with her five brothers to attend the Quaker school where they remain all week. She won't be dissuaded by her parents' worries about the distance and her age, nor one brother's gender bias, nor another's threat that "Raw Head and Bloody Bones might grab you in those woods on the way." Finally, persistent Virgie arrives at the school, stares in wonderment at desks and books, and imagines sharing all with Mama and Papa so it "might seem like they've been to school too." Depiction of the period and the story's emotions are furthered by E. B. Lewis' expressive watercolors. 2000, Simon and Schuster, Ages 7 to 10, $16.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-The youngest and the only girl in a family with five boys, Virgie works hard to convince everyone she is old enough, strong enough, and smart enough to attend the school set up by the Quakers for recently freed blacks in Jonesborough, TN. By the end of summer, she has convinced her family that she can make the seven-mile walk to board at school each week and willingly handle the job of "learning to be free." The story is a superb tribute to the author's great aunt, the inspiration for this book. Howard crystallizes each of the family members, setting the protagonist snugly in the midst of annoying but loving brothers and wise parents. A note provides more information about the school and family. Lewis's watercolor illustrations capture the characters with warmth and dignity; the many double-page spreads evoke the vastness of both the land and the immensity of Virgie's undertaking. There is a blush of dialect and two thrilling references to Raw Head and Bloody Bones waiting in the woods to catch the children on their way to school. Youngsters will enjoy Virgie but it will be years before they can harvest all that is planted in this gentle tale. A worthy choice for read-alouds and independent reading.-Jody McCoy, The Bush School, Seattle, WA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689800764
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 983,251
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard's grandfather was Cornelius "C.C." Fitzgerald. His brother Will told stories about their childhood to his daughter Jessie, who passed them along to the author. Inspired by these stories, Elizabeth visited Jonesborough, Tennessee, a town seven miles from where her grandfather grew up. There she learned about a school started by Quakers called the Warner Institute and wrote this story.

E.B. Lewis is the award-winning illustrator of such books as Virgie Goes to School With Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald, which was a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and This Little Light of Mine. He received the Caldecott Honor for Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes. E.B. Lewis lives in New Jersey, and you can visit him online at

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2003

    Ed's Review

    This is s good story of a girl Virgie who wants to go to school with her brothers.I feel that very one deserves an education and doesn't matter the age and gender.I think children can relate to Virgie and will enjoy the book. The illustrations from E.B Lewis will have an impact on children because the water color expresses feelings and it shows how Virgie feels. I think the usage of colors wereexcellent and children will enjoy the illustrations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2003

    Just like the Boys

    Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys was about a young girl named Virgie. She wanted to get an education like her brothers. Her brothers George, will, Nelson, Val, and C.C. was against her wanting to go to school with them. Throughout the summer she beg her mom and dad about her going to school. Then her father told her she can go to school if that is what she really wanted to do. On the way there her brothers were telling her to keep up. Virgie went through slipping in the creep, and being scare when they went in the woods. When they finally got there she was happy. Virgie was greeted by the headmaster Mr. Warner. When I read this story I felt it was really interesting. I think children might relate to this book, but not in Virgie situation. I think the impact this book might have on children is going to be in a postive way. It is telling them don't give up on your goal.

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