Back of the Bus


It’s December 1, 1955.

A boy and his mother are riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama like any other day—way in the back of the bus. The boy passes time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus…

Until a big commotion breaks out from way up front.

With simple words and powerful illustrations, Aaron Reynolds and Coretta Scott King medalist ...

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It’s December 1, 1955.

A boy and his mother are riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama like any other day—way in the back of the bus. The boy passes time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus…

Until a big commotion breaks out from way up front.

With simple words and powerful illustrations, Aaron Reynolds and Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper recount the pivotal arrest of Rosa Parks at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement.

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Editorial Reviews

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 Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/7/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 451,760
  • 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

Aaron Reynolds is the author of many acclaimed books for kids, including Chicks and Salsa, Metal Man, and the Joey Fly, Private Eye graphic novel series. He rode city buses for many years, and is delighted to live in an era in which anyone can sit anywhere they like. He lives near Chicago, IL with his wife, two kids, and four cats.

Visit Aaron Reynolds at

Floyd Cooper began drawing at a very early age. After a short stint in advertising, he began illustrating children’s books exclusively. He has lent his unique artistic style to many Philomel titles, including Jump!, Mandela, and Willie and the All-Stars. Mr. Cooper was awarded the Coretta Scott King award for The Blacker the Berry and also has three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards to his name. Mr. Cooper lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their two sons.

Visit Floyd Cooper at

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