A Bus Called Heaven

( 1 )

Overview

Could a broken-down bus really bring a whole city neighborhood together? Could it all start with a small girl named Stella?

One morning in front of Stella’s house, an abandoned bus appears, looking sad as a whale on a beach. On its front, held up with packing tape, is a hand-painted sign that says Heaven. Right away, the bus brings change to Stella’s street when people stop to talk about it instead of rushing by. And as Stella looks past all the empty bottles and cans inside, as...

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Overview

Could a broken-down bus really bring a whole city neighborhood together? Could it all start with a small girl named Stella?

One morning in front of Stella’s house, an abandoned bus appears, looking sad as a whale on a beach. On its front, held up with packing tape, is a hand-painted sign that says Heaven. Right away, the bus brings change to Stella’s street when people stop to talk about it instead of rushing by. And as Stella looks past all the empty bottles and cans inside, as she sees the sparrows nesting in the engine, she changes, too. "This bus could be ours," she declares. With a master’s eye for finding the magic in the mundane, Bob Graham creates an encouraging story about community — a whimsical tale about neighbors of all ages and stripes coming together, and about one little girl who comes into her own.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
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.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In a story where every turn is possible, if improbable, Graham makes readers believe. High hopes and busy, vibrant artwork that mixes metaphor with true grit will entice children—and parents—into further rereadings.
—Booklist (starred review)

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
One day a tired old bus appears outside Stella's house. On it, a taped sign says, "Heaven." With Stella's determination, it brings big changes to the neighborhood. After it is pushed into her front yard, blocking the sidewalk, the grown-ups clean it up and some boys paint the outside with Stella's designs. Soon the bus is cozily full of donations and people. But one day, when people are happily active inside and out, a tow truck arrives. The bus is "causing an obstruction" and "has to go." How Stella saves the bus and everything inside makes for a surprise happy ending to this imaginative story. Graham's city scene on the jacket gives a hint of the theatrical events inside. The bus, decorated with child-like painting, is being towed while a crowd of small people tries to stop the action. The pages are designed imaginatively with different size scenes depicting aspects of the neighborhood life style. The ink and watercolor drawings contain many amusing vignettes: a Middle Eastern musical trio, kids having a picnic, entrepreneurs setting up shops along the sidewalk, clerics praying, etc. Graham's vision keeps the promise of the title as he offers a delightful—even heavenly—fable. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763658939
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 282,621
  • Age range: 3 - 5 Years
  • Lexile: AD570L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.56 (w) x 11.96 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Graham

Bob Graham is the author-illustrator of many award-winning books for children, including How to Heal a Broken Wing and April and Esme, Tooth Fairies. He lives in Australia.

"I left those people on the last page of Heaven knowing that there is still rust under that new paint job, but if the developers stay away from the vacant lot, the bus has surely reached a happy destination. There is a kettle inside, a row of mugs on cup hooks, and quite often a cake from Mrs. Stavros. Hopefully for years to come it will be a happy refuge for people, baby birds, and snails." — Bob Graham

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2012

    Terrific title--multiple uses!

    This appealing book is about community--and more. Depending on your child, it could open a fruitful, child-level discussion about what heaven really is; what angels do, and how folks on earth can behave. Failing that it is a darn good story with spot-on, gently humorous illustrations. This can be used with the five to eight year old crowd just as a fun story; children nine to eighteen can use it to learn what metaphor is and to discuss deep questions about community, divine intention, faith and the afterlife.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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