Author: Nikki Giovanni
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher: Scholastic, 2005
Genre: Biography picture book
Age Range: 2-3 Grade
2006 Caldecott Honor Book
Summary: Rosa Parks is a seamstress living in Alabama. She, her husband, and her mother live together in their house. It is the beginning of December, and Rosa is allowed to leave work early one day. She gets on the bus, sitting in the neutral section. Soon, the driver approaches her and yells at her to get up and move to the colored section because white passengers have gotten on the bus. Rosa begins to think about all the others who have stood up to prejudice and racism, and refuses to move. She is arrested, and the news spreads quickly. Jo Ann Robinson and a few other women decide to make posters asking others to boycott the bus system in support of Rosa Parks. For over a year the entire colored population boycotts riding the buses. Dr. Martin Luther King tells them to do so. Eventually, this and other events led to the Supreme Court ruling that Segregation was wrong; the Civil Rights Movement was underway.
Response: The story of Rosa Parks is inspirational to everyone. The quote at the end of the story gives a great theme. It says, "The integrity, the dignity, the quiet strength of Rosa Parks turned her no into a YES for change." It makes this universal to everyone; we all can be a source of change for good. Rosa was a great example of integrity. To me, integrity means making actions consistent with beliefs of what is right and wrong, and she did this. The fact that colored people had to get on the bus to pay, and then get off and walk to the back door to get on and ride is sickening to me. In a country that claims freedom for all, we really have a hard time sticking to it. Slavery, Internment Camps of WWII, and refusing equal rights for different groups has really made me think twice about how "free" this country really is. Rosa held her strength and took what was in fact hers, a seat on the bus. She was not sitting in the white section, she was in the neutral section of the bus, and therefore should not have had to get up and move. The fact that she was arrested was ludicrous, but at the time that is how people were. I love that the story brings about issues of the time, such as Brown V. Board of Education, and the brutal death of young Emmett Till. Rosa Parks sparked the bus boycott, that eventually lead to the Supreme Court ruling Segregation to be unconstitutional. She, and many others, came together to stand up for the rights that they should have held all along. The text of this story is moving, but I think the illustrations really tell a story of their own. They are made using watercolor as well as collage. They are remarkable. For the most part, everything is made using collage, except for the faces and certain main background items are done using watercolor. We see this beautiful rich color on the face of Rosa and the other people depicted in the story. Her features are well defined and dignified. The collage patterns are very textured, giving the sky and trees very rigid outlines. The clothing and other patterns really allow for the faces of the people to stand out as well. Rosa is always given this glow outlining her, which the illustrator says he did because she was a light shining to illuminate our pathways. He also talks about how the hue of many of the pictures are yellow and darker to really depict the heat and humidity in Alabama. Also, this heat shows the building contention and problems that Rosa will experience in the story. At one point, the story has pictures that fold open. They show people of all ages walking and coming together to boycott the buses. It is beautiful because each one is so different. There are children in the foreground, and older people who are not even given faces in the background. I think this is symbolic. Those who participated are doing it for those who were held down in the past, and also for their posterity. Even though the participants in the Civil Rights Movement were very peaceful, they dealt with a great deal of violence and brutality by those who opposed it.
Teaching Ideas: This story goes great with any study of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks was a spark that helped to ignite the United States into realizing that Segregation is very wrong, and that everyone deserves equal treatment. Students who are studying this movement will get an idea of the history at this time. The story about Brown V. Board of Education, several brutal attacks on African American people, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the great boycott of the buses. Students can take these things and really start to learn about the movement. Scholastic provides teachers with great ideas about Rosa Parks that can be used in the classroom. http://teacher.scholastic.com/rosa/