Reviews for Bus Called Heaven

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #2
*Starred Review* The neighbors are stunned when an abandoned bus with the sign Heaven appears on their street. Stella is surprised as well (That old bus is as sad as a whale on a beach), but it also gives her a big idea. It could be . . . ours! And ours takes on a majestic meaning as people come together to push the bus into Stella's front yard, clean it, paint it, and bring chairs to sit in and games to play. Two sparrows come as well and make a nest in the motor. A wonderful, oversize, overhead picture shows the inside of the bus, where people of different ages, colors, ethnicities, and religions are talking, playing, and learning together. But wait! Something so good can't be left to flourish, can it? No, there needs to be danger, which comes in the form of a tow truck with a warrant to move the dead bus sticking out onto the sidewalk. Stella, having reaped the glory of having a vision, isn't about to give it up. Her table-soccer challenge to the tow-truck driver saves the bus for both the neighborhood and the sparrow babies, which have just hatched. In a story where every turn is possible, if improbable, Graham makes readers believe. High hopes and busy, vibrant artwork combine in a story that mixes metaphor (Stella is the color of moonlight) with true grit and will entice children--and parents--into further rereadings. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
When young Stella claims an abandoned bus for the whole neighborhood, it provides this ethnically diverse, lower-middle-class group of people space to build a community. Everyone pitches in: cleaning, painting, donating furniture. A tow truck shows up, but Stella wins over the junkyard boss and reclaims the bus. Inviting ink and watercolor illustrations vary perspectives dynamically.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #3
"The bus brought change to Stella's street…Stella changed, too." It's quiet, pale Stella who takes her thumb out of her mouth and steps onto the bus that has been abandoned outside her house, claiming it for the whole neighborhood. "‘It could be…ours,' she whispered." And it's Heaven (according to the sign taped on to the front of the bus) that provides this ethnically diverse, lower-middle-class group of people space to build a community. Everyone pitches in: cleaning the broken-down, trash-filled vehicle; giving it a cheery paint job (designed by Stella, carried out by two of the Street Ratz gang caught tagging the bus); and donating furniture, a goldfish and a dog, Mrs. Stavros's bus-shaped cake, books, and Stella's old table soccer game. Tough bikers, a rabbi, little kids, old people, an imam -- all co-exist companionably in Heaven. Graham's inviting ink and watercolor illustrations vary perspectives dynamically. Close-up, detailed panels celebrate difference, while expansive single- and double-page views pull back to place this little urban utopia in a bleak industrial landscape. Heaven is threatened when a tow truck shows up in the midst of the "music and dancing…picnics and laughter" to haul the "obstruction" to the junkyard. But Stella's passion (and her impressive table soccer skills) helps win over the junkyard boss and win back the bus. Here, when a priest, a rabbi, and an imam step onto a bus called Heaven, it's not a joke. It's simply the way life should be. kitty flynn Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 February #1
A city neighborhood takes shape around an abandoned school bus as Jell-O takes to a mold, in Graham's tickling, gladdening tale. A bus gets abandoned on a downtown street. At first it is just a curiosity piece, but a little girl senses some greater potential. Neighbors push and pull it into a side yard. They clean it out. Graffiti artists give it a coat of paint. The bus becomes a hub, a village green, a community center, a sanctuary enlivened by Graham's multicultural throng: Sikh, Hasidim, sitar players, line dancers--we were all strangers once, so howdy, stranger. There comes the inevitable threat, which is neutralized by the wiles of youth. It is the lovely communality of the story--an ever-presence that is elegantly, softly presented--that will grab young readers, simply because the school bus is just so cool. It's got birds nesting in the engine block, a Foosball table, music, all sorts of things going on and the usual joyful noise of people up to whatever it is they enjoy being up to. Aiding the mood of merriment are Graham's illustrations, with their sinewy black line work, delicate, peaches-and-cream colors and loving depiction of all kinds of people. The destination sign on the bus reads "Heaven," and just so, a little piece here on Earth. (Picture book. 3-8) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #1

An abandoned, broken-down bus--destination "Heaven"--unites a community and inspires Stella, the heroine of Graham's (April and Esme: Tooth Fairies) uplifting story. "It could be... ours," whispers Stella, a quiet girl "the color of moonlight" who sees only potential for the battered vehicle. Stella's visionary attitude is contagious, and soon all the neighbors are helping clean and decorate the bus, making it into a lovely community hub, complete with table soccer, a fishbowl, and a library of books for everyone to enjoy. Even when city regulations threaten the bus, Stella finds a truly original way to save the day. Graham's ink-and-watercolor scenes capture the small details (overgrown yards, vacant lots, old tires, and refrigerators) of a struggling urban neighborhood eager for a sign of hope. And he effortlessly depicts a slice of city life, in which people of various religions, races, ages, and occupations pull together as one. As Stella shifts from meek to bold, and the bus transforms into a rainbow of color and activity, Graham's artwork grows brighter, too, highlighting the story's transformative message. Ages 3-up. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 April

Gr 1-3--Young Stella lives in a city neighborhood that undergoes a miraculous change when a run-down bus mysteriously appears in front of her house. A sign taped to the bus reads, "Heaven." Intrigued, the pale girl, "the color of moonlight," urges her neighbors to help her push the abandoned vehicle into her yard, leaving only the front wheels on the sidewalk. Coming together, the grown-ups clean the inside of it while some teens paint a cheerful mural, designed by Stella, on the outside. People carry in donations like furniture, toys, and even a table soccer game. With sparrows nesting in the engine, Heaven serves as a center of activity for the community until one Saturday morning, a tow truck arrives. The driver does not listen to protests and insists, "This bus is causing an obstruction." The crowd follows as he tows it to the junkyard. To win back the bus, Stella challenges the junkyard boss to a game of table soccer. After her victory, a cheer goes up and everyone helps move the bus to a vacant lot behind Stella's house. Ink and watercolor cartoon illustrations reinforce the earnest story's message of unity and hope, capturing the welcoming heart and spirit of Stella's urban neighborhood.--Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, MA

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