Where the Steps Were

By Andrea Cheng

Added May 6, 2009

Class with Miss D. gives the students at Pleasant Hill Elementary in inner-city Cincinnati the confidence they need to move on to their new school. The third-graders are sad that this will be their last year at Pleasant Hill before the school is torn down. Poems narrated in the voices of five students provide a series of snapshots of the lives of children in an inner-city school. Dawn is plump, and fearful of her volatile father. Kayla can't read, and her brother is in jail. Carmen's mother smokes like a chimney. Anthony shows up early every morning to help Miss D. Jonathan lives with his mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. They all know that at the end of the year, their school will close, and what little stability they have becomes all the more precious to them. The poems relate the events of their last year together with their teacher, Miss D. The year is busy as the students, each facing a challenge at home, prepare to put on a play, take field trips to a local farm, and do experiments in the science lab. They also are studying the Civil War and key figures in the civil rights movement. When the students go to a play in a real theater, they are falsely accused of spitting from a theater balcony and are kicked out. Miss D., who instills in them a strong sense of justice, helps the students write letters to the theater manager, demanding to know why they weren’t allowed to see the play. Is it because their skin is black? The free-verse poems give voice to the children, allowing them to speak their hopes, frustrations and fears. Cheng’s powerful, blocky woodcuts accompany the poems, intensifying their emotional impact.The poems also pay tribute to hard-working educators and children learning to overcome obstacles and accept unwelcome changes. Visit the late Andrea Cheng’s official websiteBook jacket image and book description courtesy Boyds Mills Press.

Find Book in Print Where the Steps Were Toolkit