The new books the school received were from the white school.
The children are very excited to get new books, until they realize that they are torn and dirty. It turns out that the new books are not new at all. They are discarded from the white school once the condition became so poor that white kids could not use them. Then they were given the Negro school.
Miss Crocker comments that they were fortunate to have the new books.
The county superintendent of schools himself brought these books down here for our use and we must take extra good care of them. (ch 1, p. 21)
Cassie notices that the books are “badly worn” and the edges of the pages have been written on. They are not new books after all. The let-down is great. The children get even more upset when they see that the books came from the white school until they were in poor condition.
By beginning the book with this event, describing the dismal conditions of the school, we are presented with the difficult realities of segregation and discrimination. This serves to foreshadow difficulties to come.