Reviews for Back of the Bus

Booklist Reviews 2010 February #1
Rosa Parks' defiant December 1955 confrontation on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, is told from the fictionalized viewpoint of a child who is there. In free verse, he describes riding the bus with his mama ("We're sittin' right there where we're supposed to-- / way in back") and rolling a marble down the aisle to the front, where smiling Mrs. Parks rolls it back to him. Then, as people pile on the bus, the driver tells Parks to move to the back. She refuses, and the driver calls the police. The boy "knows . . . she don't belong up front like that, but then he realizes "maybe she does too." The child's innocent viewpoint personalizes the well-known historical event, while Cooper's oil paintings, expertly rendered in his signature "subtractive" style, show the crowded bus as well as stunning portraits of Parks, the driver, the boy, and his mother as they decide that they are "not gonna hide no more." Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
An African American boy and his mother are on the same bus as Rosa Parks when she takes her famous stand. The story, told from the boy's perspective, shows that although he doesn't understand everything that's going on, he may have a glimmer of understanding and a dream of the future. Reynolds's poetic narrative and Cooper's warm and expressive oil illustrations sustain the premise. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 November #2
A child's-eye view of the day Rosa Parks would not give up her seat. On Dec. 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., a boy and his mom sit at the back of the bus, and he amuses himself by rolling his tiger's-eye marble down the bus aisle. "Mrs. Parks from the tailor shop" rolls it back to him. Soon the bus is packed, but it does not move. The boy, acutely sensitive to the tone of his mother's and the driver's voices, wonders what is happening, but he sees that, like his mama, Parks has her "strong chin." She's taken away, the bus goes home and the boy holds his brown-and-golden marble to the light, thinking he does not have to hide it anymore. The language is rhythmic and inflected with dropped gs, with slightly overdone description, but clearly explains to very young children Parks's refusal to give up her seat at the front of the bus to a white man. Cooper uses his "subtractive method" on oil color, in which illustrations are rubbed out or lightened, making the pictures glow with burnished grace. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 December #1

This sterling collaboration views Rosa Parks's 1955 refusal to give up her bus seat through the eyes of a perceptive boy seated with his mother in the rear of the bus. Early on, the child rolls a treasured marble up the aisle and Parks good-naturedly shoots it back to him. He tucks the marble safely away when the bus fills with passengers and he senses trouble up front: "Some folks look back, givin' us angry eyes. 'We do somethin' wrong, Mama?' I say all soft." Reynolds's (Superhero School) lyrical yet forceful text conveys the narrator's apprehension and Parks's calm resolve, which inspires the boy. "[S]he's sittin' right there, her eyes all fierce like a lightnin' storm, like maybe she does belong up there. And I start thinkin' maybe she does too." Cooper's (Willie and the All-Stars) filmy oil paintings are characterized by a fine mistlike texture, which results in warm, lifelike portraits that convincingly evoke the era, the intense emotional pitch of this incident, and the everyday heroism it embodied. Ages 6-8. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 February

Gr 2-4--Cooper's illustrations are the strongest aspect of this book, a fictional accounting of Parks's famous refusal to give up her seat, as told from the viewpoint of a little boy on the bus. Reynolds writes in free verse that is a tad overdone with Southern dialect, and the colloquialisms ("crammed like lima beans" and "sittin'…like a turnip pile") are a stretch. Cooper's work, however, is powerful for its subtlety; he has incorporated the likenesses of a couple of high-profile civil rights activists in the crowd of passengers on the bus, symbolizing the continuum of mighty figures that began with the petite woman. One of the most powerful images is that of Parks by herself; Cooper has captured her resoluteness simply in the proud jut of her chin. Problematic styling aside, Reynolds does a satisfactory job of capturing a turning point in our nation's history from an anonymous but vital perspective. Coupled with Cooper's rich paintings, this is a noteworthy reflection on the actions of a single individual in turning the tide of segregation.--Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

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