Back of the Bus

Overview

It seems like any other winter day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mama and child are riding where they're supposed to-way in the back of the bus. The boy passes the time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus, until from way up front a big commotion breaks out. He can't see what's going on, but he can see the policeman arrive outside and he can see Mama's chin grow strong. 'There you go, Rosa Parks,' she says, 'stirrin' up a nest of hornets. ...

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Overview

It seems like any other winter day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mama and child are riding where they're supposed to-way in the back of the bus. The boy passes the time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus, until from way up front a big commotion breaks out. He can't see what's going on, but he can see the policeman arrive outside and he can see Mama's chin grow strong. 'There you go, Rosa Parks,' she says, 'stirrin' up a nest of hornets. Tomorrow all this'll be forgot.? But they both know differently.

With childlike words and powerful illustrations, Aaron Reynolds and Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper recount Rosa Parks? act of defiance through the eyes of a child-who will never forget.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Coupled with Cooper's rich paintings, this is a noteworthy reflection on the actions of a single individual in turning the tide of segregation."
School Library Journal

"Cooper's 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."
—Publishers Weekly

Booklist
The child's innocent viewpoint personalizes the well-known historical event, while Cooper's oil paintings-show...stunning portraits.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alabama has been told many times. But Reynolds and Cooper bring a new interpretation. The story is seen through the eyes of a young boy who is riding the bus with his mother. To entertain himself he plays with a marble. He rolls it up the aisle and it is given a push back by Rosa Parks. As the bus fills up, the young boy hides his brown tiger's eye marble in his pocket. The bus is stopped and there seems to be a problem. Rosa Parks is refusing to give up her seat and so she is arrested. The mother tells her son that "Tomorrow all this'll be forgot." but we all know that this is just the start and Copper's final illustration makes that perfectly clear. This is a book that will certainly start discussions about prejudice, Jim Crow Laws, and more. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Moira E. McLaughlin
…[a] sweet fictional story…The beautiful pictures alone tell a story of strength, hope and determination.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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.)
School Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399250910
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 1/7/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 962,792
  • Age range: 6 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

When Floyd Cooper discovered children's book illustrating, he found a way to complement his career in advertising. An apprentice of Mark English, Mr. Cooper began his freelance career while still a student at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating, he made his way to Missouri, where he secured a position at a greeting card company.

Although Mr. Cooper was established in his position there, he felt somewhat stifled. He lacked the freedom and opportunity for spontaneity that he longed for as an artist and the joy that could be found in doing something that he loved.

Determined to break out of the mundane cycle he found himself in, Mr. Cooper relocated to the East Coast in 1984 to pursue his career further. It was there that he discovered the world of children's book illustrating and was amazed by the opportunities for creativity it afforded. Mr. Cooper was energized. The first book he illustrated, Grandpa's Face, captivated reviewers. Publishers Weekly said of newcomer Floyd Cooper's work, "Cooper, in his first picture book, creates family scenes of extraordinary illumination. He reinforces in the pictures the feelings of warmth and affection that exist between generations."

Illustrating children's books is very important to Mr. Cooper. He says, "I feel children are at the frontline in improving society. This might sound a little heavy, but it's true. I feel children's picture books play a role in counteracting all the violence and other negative images conveyed in the media."

Floyd Cooper resides in New Jersey with his wife, Velma, and their two sons.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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