Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues

( 47 )

Overview

"Oh, I'm singing the bus-rider blues,
the Alabamy bus-rider blues.
I got me a feeling, deep down inside,
It ain't never ever gonna be the same."

During the Alabama bus boycott, six months after Rosa Parks made her famous bus protest, Alfa Merryfield and his family struggle to pay the rent. But someone keeps stealing their rent money — and ...

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Overview

"Oh, I'm singing the bus-rider blues,
the Alabamy bus-rider blues.
I got me a feeling, deep down inside,
It ain't never ever gonna be the same."

During the Alabama bus boycott, six months after Rosa Parks made her famous bus protest, Alfa Merryfield and his family struggle to pay the rent. But someone keeps stealing their rent money — and now someone is accusing them of stealing!
With only a few days left before rent is due, Alfa and his sister, Zinnia, know they don't have much time. To solve this mystery, they must "walk the walk and talk the talk of nonviolence" that Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders preach — and what they discover may be more than they dreamed...

Twelve-year-old Alfa Merryfield, his older sister, and their grandmother struggle for rent money, food, and their dignity as they participate in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the summer of 1956.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this quasi-mystery set during the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott, 12-year-old Alfa relies on the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. to get through some strange times. PW said this novel "may well inspire readers to discover more about this important chapter in civil rights history." Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Robinet (Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule) sets this quasi-mystery and historical novel in June 1956 during the Montgomery bus boycott, and 12-year-old Alfa's narration brings its ramifications home and lends the events a sense of immediacy. Alfa lives with his great-grandmother Mama Mayfield, well respected in the town even among many white people, and sister Zinnia in a ramshackle tar-paper house. He composes the "bus-rider blues" as he attempts to bolster his courage against three white bullies who steal his pay from the Greendale grocery where he works. He manages to turn the tables on the trio by applying the philosophy of the newly arrived Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he hears at rallies in his church. When a wealthy white woman accuses Alfa's family of stealing from her while cleaning her home, he puts King's teachings to the test. Robinet conveys the tension in Montgomery, not only through the impact of the bus boycott and King's preaching of non-violence on day-to-day interactions among townspeople but through the reverberations of African-American Emmett Till's racially motivated murder the previous summer. A few important threads remain only partially explored, such as the loan shark who holds a connection to both the accusing white family and Alfa and Zinnia's "phantom mother," and some inconsistencies come through in Mr. Greendale's and Zinnia's characters. The novel is at its strongest when filling in historical details of the time, such as the volunteer taxi service for bus boycotters, and may well inspire readers to discover more about this important chapter in civil rights history. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
This novel recounts the turbulent events of the late 1950s that sparked the American civil rights movement. In Montgomery, Alabama, things haven't been the same since Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person. The black community, and some white folks, have been boycotting bus rides ever since. This places a hardship on Alfa, who at twelve years of age helps to support his family by working at a grocery store. But Alfa understands that the community must stand together if they are to overthrow the System, a system that casually treats African-Americans as something less than human. Alfa has other problems, too. His main worry is coming up with the rent money each month, but he is also concerned about Big Mama, his great grandmother and guardian. Even though she is very old and sometimes loses her way, Big Mama refuses to ride the bus. And when money is missing from a wealthy white man's house that Alfa and his family cleaned, suspicion falls on Alfa and his family. In the midst of this turmoil, a young clergyman named Martin Luther King gives rousing speeches that bolster the movement's resolve. And at the end of this finely layered novel, the ray of hope that means equality for all mankind shines a little brighter. 2000, Atheneum, Ages 8 to 12, $16.00. Reviewer: Christopher Moning—Children's Literature
VOYA - Voya Reviews
In Montgomery, Alabama, during the summer of 1956, twelve-year-old Alfa Merryfield works at the local grocery to help his family earn enough money to pay the rent on their two-room, tar-paper home. Although they keep their money hidden, Alfa, his great-grandmother, and his fifteen-year-old sister, Zinnia, have found part of their savings missing more than once. Also on their minds is the bus boycott that has continued for nearly six months. Just like hundreds of other African Americans in that day, they walk wherever they have to go, rather than ride the bus. Short of funds, the family takes on the extra job of cleaning the home of a wealthy doctor. Before the day is over, they are accused of stealing a very large amount of money from the house. Together the siblings are determined to solve the mystery of the doctor's missing money as well as their own. This award-winning author has woven a significant Civil Rights event into a powerful and memorable story line. Although her characters are faced with daily incidents of racism, their high self-respect and dignity carry them through. Robinet's humble male narrator will capture the reader's heart, as he "walks the walk and talks the talk of nonviolence" that is preached by a young Martin Luther King Jr. Biblio. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Simon & Schuster, Ages 12 to 14, 160p, $16. Reviewer: Mary Ann Capan
School Library Journal
Robinet (Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule) sets this quasi-mystery and historical novel in June 1956 during the Montgomery bus boycott, and 12-year-old Alfa's narration brings its ramifications home and lends the events a sense of immediacy. Alfa lives with his great-grandmother Mama Mayfield, well respected in the town even among many white people, and sister Zinnia in a ramshackle tar-paper house. He composes the "bus-rider blues" as he attempts to bolster his courage against three white bullies who steal his pay from the Greendale grocery where he works. He manages to turn the tables on the trio by applying the philosophy of the newly arrived Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he hears at rallies in his church. When a wealthy white woman accuses Alfa's family of stealing from her while cleaning her home, he puts King's teachings to the test. Robinet conveys the tension in Montgomery, not only through the impact of the bus boycott and King's preaching of non-violence on day-to-day interactions among townspeople but through the reverberations of African-American Emmett Till's racially motivated murder the previous summer. A few important threads remain only partially explored, such as the loan shark who holds a connection to both the accusing white family and Alfa and Zinnia's "phantom mother," and some inconsistencies come through in Mr. Greendale's and Zinnia's characters. The novel is at its strongest when filling in historical details of the time, such as the volunteer taxi service for bus boycotters, and may well inspire readers to discover more about this important chapter in civil rights history. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Social issues, civil-rights history, adventure, and mystery are all skillfully combined in this gripping story of 12-year-old Alfa Merryfield, his sister Zinnia, and their great-grandmother Lydia. Setting her story in Montgomery, Alabama, during the summer of 1956, when the bus boycott precipitated by Rosa Parks is already six months old and racial tensions are high, Robinet (Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, 1998, etc.) has created richly delineated characters and conveyed a strong sense of time and place from the perspective of two African-American children who are deeply involved in it all. In addition to the larger social issues, Alfa and Zinnia face other, more personal and immediate problems. Lydia's mind has started to wander, and the rent money that the three have struggled to gather for their tar-paper shack each month has been mysteriously disappearing from its hiding place. Even worse, the three are accused of stealing money from the big yellow house they are hired to clean. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for nonviolent resistance, and his admonishment that "justice delayed is justice denied," Alfa and Zinnia work tirelessly and ingeniously to solve both mysteries. Elements that add even more depth and suspense to the story include questions concerning the children's "phantom mother," who left them with Mama Merryfield when they were three-and-a-half years and six months old, and who has never been seen or heard from since; the secret signals and signs of solidarity that are exchanged behind the backs of white people; and the constant tension and brutality of an unequal and racist world—tensions and brutality that are exacerbatedasthe old order begins to crumble. Robinet has succeeded admirably in conveying all of this and more in a way that young readers will be able to understand, all the while telling a story that will keep them turning the pages. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689838866
  • Publisher: Aladdin
  • Publication date: 1/1/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 427,003
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Raúl Colón has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including the New York Times bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt, Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance, and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2006

    Walking to The bus Rider Blues

    Walking to The Bus Rider Blues change my life in a way that a book that has never change my life like that. This book changel my life by letting me know how it was hard for black people to be treated this way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues Review

    Would you like to know more about life for the African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s? Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues is a historical fiction by Harriette Gillem Robinet. You would like this book if you were interested in the Civil Rights Movement, the bus boycotts, or if you enjoy mysteries! I know I liked this book, I read the whole book in one night! This book is about two mysteries, and how African Americans were treated. The main characters are Alfa Merryfield, Zinnia Merryfield, and Mamma Merryfield or Big Mamma. The setting takes place during the 1950s (1956), and takes place in Alabama. The theme of this book is how African Americans did nonviolent acts to gain free equal rights. I think Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues is like the book the Biography of Rosa Parks. I think this because both books are about the bus boycotts. The weak points of the book, or what I didn¿t like about it was that I didn¿t like how the author didn¿t give more information about the boycotts than I would¿ve liked. But, the strong points of the book, or what I did like about it was that I liked when the author made it seem like different characters were the ¿bad guys,¿ or the ones who stole the money. I would definitely encourage other people to read this book. This is because this book shows how hard it was for African Americans and it gives information on something that really happened in American history. We should all know about are history so we don¿t accidentally repeat it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    Find Out More

    Are you interested in learning more about the segregation of African-Americans? If you are, you should read Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues, by Harriette Gillem Robit. This book is about a 12 year old African-American boy named Alfa, his family, and how their life was like in the summer of 1956. This story takes place in Montgomery, Alabama. It is a mystery book and it teaching about history because Alfa and his family were blamed for stealing $2,000 from a white man, and the families rent money is disappearing. I think that you will enjoy this book, especially if you like mysteries and history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues

    Hello, I think people that like mystery books would love to read this book. This book is about a family of three who has a hard time making money for them to stay in their house. Their rent fee is forty dollars a month. So far this month the Marryfields are doing good with their money, but one day some of the money is gone and Alfa and Zinnia have to make alot of money before the month is over. The main characters are Alfa, Zinnia, and Mama Marryfield, Officer Newton, and Mr. Greendale.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    DO NOT GO WITHIN 100 MILES OF THIS BOOK!

    Do you like a half good mystery book? You¿ll get the half good mystery that you want in Walking to the Bus Rider Blues. This book is a Historical Fiction, written by Harriette Gillem Robinet. If you really like learning about the Civil Rights Movement you would diffidently give this book a better star rating then I will. The story unfolds in Montgomery, Alabama, where the dirt-poor Merryfield family runs into major financial trouble. Their rent money for their house keeps disappearing and when they are cleaning another person¿s house for money they are accused for stealing the families $2000. The main characters are Alfa, Zinnia, and Big Mama Merryfield. I could say this book is related to many different stories in many different ways. One would the book would be Freedom Train because they are both about black people¿s struggle for freedom and Civil Rights. The theme of this book is about how the struggle and the perseverance of black people on their way to equal rights, for all minorities, and what they were willing to do to get there. The bus boycott for example, they walked for more than a year to get their way to win equal rights with the whites and for all minorities. You do not hear about any others because they were not as major as African American rights. The weakest point of the story is how the way she addresses this story. It is just like she took it from another book because I¿ve seen it all too much in other books. The strong point was how she kept you guessing who stole the $2000. Half the time you think it¿s the window washer when it¿s really some one else. I would not encourage my friends to read this book. Most of my friends aren¿t too interested in Civil Rights. Therefore this book deserves 1 star. No question about it. I am sorry to all those who really like this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    It's a Long Way to Walk

    Have you ever walked somewhere and thought, 'I wish I had a car.'? That's what twelve-year old Alfa Merryfield feels everyday. This historical fiction novel takes place in the middle of the 1956 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, so poor Alfa has to walk everywhere he goes. When he and his family have their rent money for their tar-paper house stolen, the Merryfields go to a rich white family's house to work for moeney. But get this, just when they're about to get their pay, they are accused of stealing from the white family!And when Alfa has just about figured out the real culprit, he is fired from his job at a grocery store because his boss thinks he's a criminal. I just sat there and pondered until I could recollect my thoughts and said, 'Okay...WHAT?!?' I would give this book four of five stars and recemend it to problem solvers. It leaves you hooked and really makes you think. So if you like mysteries, grab this book and start reading! You won't believe the ending!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Would You Walk to thr Bus-Rider Blues?

    This short but appealing novel is full of the mysterious disappearance of money, as well as racism. The characters in this book go through a lot of misfortunes and unexpected events. They somehow find their way through all of that with the help of their family. Alfa, the main character, does whatever he can for his family, whether it would be being beaten by the police, or getting his money stolen. It also shows perspective on how life was like for African-Americans back then. Also, that family can help, so lean on them when you're in need, no matter what.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Sweet Tunes of Walking to Bus Rider-Blues

    Walking To The Bus-Rider Blues combined the history of prejudice and segregation among blacks and whites with a story with a bit of mystery. While learning about the events that went on and what blacks had to experience, Robinet told a story that kept you thinking with a bit of suspense that the conflict added.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2006

    Get rid of your blues

    The book Walking to the Bus rider blues is a story about a Alabama family called the Merryfields trying to pay back thier rent. All of the blacks are boycotting the buses for the arrest Rosa Parks. Alfa the only male in the house works at Mr. Greendale's Grocery store and Big Mama (their Guardian) works by cleaning the white folks houses. However,while gathering money there it gets stolen, they get acused of stealing 2 thousand dollars, and of coarse, constant harrasment of the white folks. This a really good story of the merryfields struggle for survival and should be many readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2006

    Walkin to the Promised Land

    I think this book is very interesting. It makes me want to keep reading. I think this book this book is interesting because I never read a book talking about blacks & whites. I've seen the movie but never read the book. The best part about this novel is Chapter three because alfa stands up to those three white boys without fighting them I would remcommend this novel to someone else because it takes alot for me to like a book, the book has to have lots of detail and, interesting, and the title has to be catchy, I like this book, so i think someone eles would like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2006

    Life is a rollercoaster!!!

    Growing up in segragated towns and schools a young boy fights for freedom and equal rights.This book is wanting, it will keep you on the edge. The worst part of the book is when the white kids were making fun of the liitte black boy.b I would recomend this book because its a fun book and u would learn alot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2006

    Come And Ride The Bus

    My novel is about walking to the bus rider blues,It is about Two kids that are in the time of the segregation and they're fighting to get treated like equal people. Alfa is trying to mange his job and not lose it for fighting,his sister who is trying to help him mange his money from work. The best part in this story to me is when five young boys wanted to fight Alfa and then they diden't Because they found out what his name was and they where guessing how he had got there names. I would recommend this book to some people and why because it is a good book an segregation and I think they would like the point of view of where there coming from.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    The Book On The Bus Rider Blues

    Harriet Gillem Robinet writes a book that will touch your heart. It is about the African-Americans boycott against riding the busses. When they are walking down the road and the bus comes by they sing the Bus Rider Blues. I like this book because it makes me want to do more for the things that happend, but you can't this is that is the past.I whould recamment this book to anyone. You could be one hundred or five years old. So I hope you will read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Amazing Story About A Struggling Family

    Walking to the Bus Rider Blues, a novel by Harriette Gillem Robinet, shows the struggles for blacks during Segregation. The author put the book into great perspective for people who normally don't stick up for themselves. The story is told by a young boy named Alfa who wants to become a scientist. He uses the Scientific Method to try and find out who stole his family's rent money. Along with that, his family has been accused of stealing $2000 dollars from the lady(Mrs. Williams) they work for. Soon Alfa finds enough clues to figure out who has been stealing his rent money, and who stole Mrs. Williams' money. If you enjoy reading novels about the hardships of blacks during Segregation, than you should get this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Walking and Solving the Bus Riders Blues

    The Merryfield's have to pay rent every month for their tar house, and every week someone steals the money. On top of that, in one of their cleaning jobs they are accused of of stealing some money. Alfa Merryfield is determined to find out who stole it and clear is family name. It is a great msytery book by Harriette Gillem Robinet I give it 4 stars. The book will keep you reading it. I couldn't wait till the best part of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2006

    How much can hard work get you?

    This is a suspense filled novel with many twists and turns throughout. This novel you guessing and sometimes send you in the wrong direction.The best part of this novel is when Alfa is fighting against time trying to solve the mystery, obtain his rent money, and focusing on keeping his job. This novel does a great job in explaining how hard it was for African Americans to have racial equality and how Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King helped them achieve their goal. I would recommend this book to a teen reader who is interested in mysterty novels and someone who would like to witness how hard it was for African Americans to get racial equality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2006

    Alfa and the Bus-Rider Blues

    Harriet Robinet writes a great novel about a family growing up in Montgomery, Alabama. She describes the characters in excellent ways that makes you get to know them. She did a great job with her descriptions of the city and how people act towards 'blacks'. I recommend this book to young readers who like a good, easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Walking to SUCESS

    This is a great book. It's like a mystery book because if something was missing and a black lived in the house then people put them as their first suspect. It also tells people that blacks weren't given a chance to prove they were innocent. People were allowed to do that and the blacks couldn't do anything about it, this book proves that blacks can do anything that whites can do. My favorite part was when Aflred proved they were innocent of not steeling the money. My least favorite part was when they white people said that they stole the money. I would recommend this book to younger kids because if you are older you wouldn't like the book but younger kids would enjoy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    The Bus Rider Blues

    I think this novel is like a history because it is jam packed with infromation onb the civil rights and desegregation movements. The best thing is about this book is not only it is like a history book, but it is also like a mystery book because you wonder what is going to happend next. This book has historical fiction because the author is taking a family that could have been in the segregation movement. i would recommened this because the auther has the same amazing imformation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Just Keep Walking

    Although I enjoy African American history very much, I found this book rather dull. 'Walking to the Bus Rider Blues' is the story of Alfa Merryfield, his sister Zinnia, and his great-grandmother living in a segregated Alabama town. While cleaning the home of the wealthy Williams', the Merryfields are accused of stealing $2,000 from Mr. Williams' wallet. I thought that the book talked too much about the familie's trouble to keep up with their monthly rent payment, rather than the idea of segregation in the south. I would recommend this book to younger readers like a fourth or fifth grader, but not middle school or high school students. If you want to read about the hardships of an African American family during the fifties, I think this would be a good book for you.

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