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Busing Brewster

Busing Brewster

3.0 2
by Richard Michelson, R.G. Roth (Illustrator)

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A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book

Brewster is excited about starting first grade . . . until Mama announces that he'll be attending Central—a school in the white part of town. Mama says they have art and music and a library bursting with books, but Brewster isn


A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book

Brewster is excited about starting first grade . . . until Mama announces that he'll be attending Central—a school in the white part of town. Mama says they have art and music and a library bursting with books, but Brewster isn't so sure he'll fit in.

Being black at a white school isn't easy, and Brewster winds up spending his first day in detention at the library. But there he meets a very special person: Miss O'Grady. The librarian sees into Brewster's heart and gives him not only the gift of books but also the ability to believe in himself.

This powerful and tender story of desegregation in the 1970s introduces readers to the brave young heroes who helped to build a new world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Michelson (As Good As Anybody) provides an immediate, child’s-eye view of court-ordered busing in the 1970s. First-grader Brewster and his older brother, Bryan, are bused to Central, “the white school,” an hour away. Brewster is heartened by his mother’s comment that the school has a pool and a library—“I don’t know how to read, or how to swim. But I’m glad Mama’s happy”—but nervous, too. In a trenchant scene, Brewster asks Bryan what roadside protestors’ “whites only” signs say, to which he responds, “Welcome to Central”—just before a rock crashes through the bus window. After a scuffle lands the brothers (and a white boy Bryan befriends) in the school library for detention, Brewster tells the librarian, “Mama hopes I’ll be president,” and she replies, “So we’d better begin by teaching you how to read.” Using soft earth tones, Roth’s (This Jazz Man) stylized mixed media images are an amalgam of angular characters, geometric shapes, and patterned fabrics that feel like an artful interpretation of the era’s cartoons. They readily underscore the collision of innocence and prejudice, anger and hope. Ages 6-10. (May)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Back in the 1970s Brewster, our African American narrator and his brother are far from happy when their delighted mother tells them they will be going to a school in the white part of town. Although the school has art, music, a large library, and even a swimming pool, the boys will have an hour ride on the bus. When they arrive at school, they are greeted by an angry, rock-throwing throng of protesters. Inside, when brother Bryan pushes a nasty student, the boys are sent to the library for detention. Brewster is encouraged by the librarian to persevere. He can hope to be president some day. We know that President Obama has mentioned his own "time out" in his school library. Roth has covered the end pages with sketches of outdoor school play. His lighthearted approach contrasts with the serious subject of the story. Ink lines and stylized watercolors define people; collage is added for clothing and other objects. The pale skin of the protesters contrasts with the brown skin of the bussed-in students. The scenes are suggestive rather than specific; there is an open approach to page designs depicting constant motion and interaction. In a note offering historic context for young readers today, Michelson says that Brewster is a composite of many youngsters at that time, and the school situation was unfortunately repeated in many places. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews
Brewster is nervous and excited about starting first grade at Franklin, but, shortly before the big day, he and his brother Bryan find out they are to be bused to Central, the white school. Though Bryan is unhappy about waking up at six o'clock for the long bus ride, his mother is enthusiastic about the indoor swimming pool, special art and music rooms and well-stocked library. A less-than-warm welcome by the adults in the white community confuses Brewster, but Mrs. O'Grady, the white librarian, saves the day. Roth's collage and mixed media work together to create a modern-but-retro feel that clearly shows emotions from fear and anger to pride and hope. The story of busing in the 1970s will likely be a new one for most young readers, and this story provides nothing in the way of context to separate it from the more familiar accounts of the integration of Southern schools; this tale, according to the CIP, is set in Boston. Well-meaning but incomplete. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-10)
Lawrence Downes
Its collage, ink and watercolor illustrations, by R. G. Roth, call to mind Ezra Jack Keats, but with their own distinctive look and emotional power…I loved the illustrations in Busing Brewster…I loved even more its understated honesty, the way it introduces violence without melodrama, and avoids the easy ending. Busing is an opportunity. It is also a pain. No one is immediately converted away from racism and prejudice, but the book does not reject the possibility of redemption…
—The New York Times
School Library Journal
Gr 1–5— Gr 1–5—One fall, two African-American brothers learn that they will be bused to a predominantly white school. While Bryan complains ("Ain't no Negroes at Central"), Mama reassures first-grader Brewster that they will benefit from the new school's fine facilities, such as a well-stocked library. Mama says that with such advantages, Brewster might even be president someday. However, angry whites gather at the school in protest, creating chaos inside and out. Brewster, Bryan, and others are sent to the library for detention in the melee. There they find a friendly librarian who encourages them to dream. The book effectively captures both the promises and the challenges of school integration in the 1970s. Roth's rich earth tones and bold patterns perfectly anchor the book in its era, while the mixed-media and collage illustrations convey the urban environment. The text also stays true to its historical period, using the word "Negro" instead of "African American." This provides an opportunity for adults to explain how and why language evolves as society changes. An author's note provides a factual overview of this era. Michelson also explains here that he wrote the story long before Barack Obama was elected president, and that he never expected such a historic event to become a reality in his lifetime.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Richard Michelson is the author of many books for adults and children, including As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom, illustrated by Raul Colón, which was a Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner and a National Jewish Book Award Finalist. Richard always hated detention in the principal's office, but, like Brewster, he never minded his many library "time-outs"-and to this day, he loves to be surrounded by books and art.

Robert Roth has illustrated several picture books, including Why Butterflies Go on Silent Wings by Marguerite Davol and Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt. His work has collected many honors, including eight from the Society of Illustrators.

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Busing Brewster 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of 8 NY Times Notable Children's Books 0f 2011 2011 National Council for Social Studies–Notable Trade Book “Though broaching the idea of segregation with young children is a sensitive proposition, Busing Brewster helps put a human face on an important issue and shows what “forced busing” felt like to those on the inside.” —San Francisco Book Review “This memorable book looks at what it was like to be a part of the desegregation of schools in America. In addition, it shows readers how books can open up doors in the minds of children; books can help children to see that they do have the power to change their world if they want to.” (read more) —Through The Looking Glass Review “Richard Michelson has written another excellent piece of historical fiction.” —Forwords Books “Busing Brewster (distills the heady topic of forced busing in the 1970s into a story appropriate for elementary schoolers. It's to author Richard Michelson's credit — and the story's success — that he doesn't shy away from thorny details. Though the ending is a hopeful one, the painful history Michelson references should provoke plenty of discussion once the book's covers are closed.” —The Statesman “Michelson tells a small story about a huge issue – the busing of black children to previously all-white schools in the 1970s – and makes it accessible to younger children.” —The News Tribune “This powerful and tender story of desegregation busing in the 1970s introduces readers to the brave young heroes who helped to build a new world.” —Powell’s Books “Richard Michelson, has succeeded, again, in writing an engaging picture book about tough race relations with great sympathy and interest.” —The Odyssey Bookshop “While many teachers cover desegregation in their curriculum, they haven’t had as fine a resource as Busing Brewster. This is definitely a title to add to your classroom collection.” — Picture Book Review
Library88DK More than 1 year ago
Wow. Just read this for class, what a horrific perpetuation of the misconceptions concerning bussing in Boston. Guess nearly forty years of hindsight and strife means that people can continue to analytically oversimplify such a devastating blow to the Boston Public School system. Perhaps Brooklyn, NY natives that live in North Hampton, MA (a area of Massachusetts nearly two hours away from the afflicted inner city Boston neighborhoods involved in bussing) who list no bibliographic backmatter on the era, nor cite any direct experience in the incident, can write things that are NYT prizewinners? I'd get this book coming out 20 years ago... but really? 2010? Remove the text, and the illustrations show some reality and potential. There certainly exists a need in children's literature to represent this era in Boston's history, but this book does not even begin to address bussing in a practical manner. Issues of hegemony and class stratifying propaganda reign supreme in the text. Until this book is expanded on or rewritten, I'd give it a skip.