Brewster is excited to begin the first grade – until his mother informs him that he will be leaving the school in his neighborhood to go to Central, the white school. Riding through the streets of Boston, Brewster and his brother are confronted with protesting adults and spiteful children, who have learned their parents’ prejudices. Inside the school, Mrs. O’Grady, a kind librarian, develops a particular fondness for Brewster and dedicates herself to teaching him to read. Focusing on the personal stories that can be found within the margins of history, Michelson narrates with sensitivity to nuance and an eye to how children process these events individually and without the ideological trappings of adults.
Guided by funky illustrations decidedly of the 1970s, the book highlights the potential for new friendships and greater opportunity to learn, though attentive to the personal and social consequences of forced busing for children, such as separation from friends and other familiar faces, and often a frequently hostile environment, at a critical stage in their development. Busing Brewster promotes dialogue between parents and children and provides a way in to what can be a difficult topic to approach with young children. An author’s note at the end examines the story in the larger context of American history and civil rights, and has been updated to reflect on events that have transpired since its original publication in 2010.